In 2010, a teenage Liam Pitchford had high hopes at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and went on to win silver and bronze at the Games, but had no idea that in 2016, he would be competing in his second Olympic Games.
The 22 year-old table tennis player, from Chesterfield, has been selected to represent Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, alongside teammate Paul Drinkhall.
The pair qualified two quota places for Team GB as a result of their International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) ranking and will compete in the men’s singles.
“I am delighted” said Pitchford, who narrowly missed out on qualification at the European Olympic Qualification Tournament in Sweden last month. “It’s been a difficult few weeks since the qualification tournament and it’s amazing to have finally made the squad.”
Drinkhall and Pitchford both represented Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics, having gained the host nation places, but this is the first time they have qualified outright, and is an experience Pitchford is looking forward to after having four years to develop.
“I loved London 2012, being a home Games, but Rio 2016 will be an incredible new experience. I am a lot more mature going there this time mentally and in table tennis terms so I hope to do a lot better. I said wanted to qualify by my own right – and I have – so I feel that I deserve to be there.
“It is however too soon to say what I am aiming for in Rio as I don’t want to put tag on it quite yet. I want to go there, enjoy it and try to be competitive.”
Rio 2016 will see Pitchford take on the best table tennis athletes in the world, but hopes to be able to cause some upsets.
“China is best in the world for table tennis and has dominated for a long time but there are only two of them competing in singles, so we shall see.
“We showed at World Championships, when we came away with bronze, that we are able to compete.”
And he is particularly thrilled that he will share this experience with his teammate, Paul Drinkhall who he believes will be able to offer him the vital support needed in Rio.
“Paul and I have been in team together for a while. We are good friends and have pushed each other on. Hopefully we can again in Rio.
Following on from his two medals in Delhi, Glasgow 2014 saw Pitchford win three Commonwealth medals and all of these experiences he believes will help him at the Olympics.
“I have always said that Delhi 2010 led me onto bigger things – I won two medals there and it spurred me on to winning more. And, looking past Rio, hopefully Gold Coast 2018 will be even better for me.”
Congratulations Liam and Paul from all at Team England. Best of luck in Rio.