Many medallist like to have their loved ones close by when they take that special step onto the podium to collect their prize. Not many have them right there next to them on the rostrum, but table tennis star Paul Drinkhall did tonight as he and fiancée Joanne Parker collected bronze medals in the mixed doubles at the Commmonwealth Games in Delhi.
Drinkhall and Parker, who plan to marry after the London 2012 Olympics, finished third, beating Australians William Henzell and Miao Miao 3-1 in the bronze medal match after losing the semi-final earlier today to Singapore’s second seeds, and eventual gold medallist, Yang Zi and Wang Yuegu.
Drinkhall, who added the bronze to the silver he after losing the men’s team final to Singapore last week, said: “It’s great to get another medal after silver in the men’s team event, and to get it with Jo makes it extra special.
“It was obviously disappointing to lose the semi-final earlier today, but a medal’s a medal so I’m happy with that.
“There wouldn’t have been any domestics had we not won a medal because we support each other on and off the court, but I think the real motivation was that Jo really wanted one of the scarves that you get when you go on the podium!
“Joking aside though, we both did our best and it’s great to have won a Commonwealth Games medal together.”
Drinkhall had a mixed day in every sense as he earlier lost a best of seven singles against Yang after coming from two sets down to level the match.
“The singles is the one that’s annoying me because I felt as if I had a great chance there, but my quarter-final got away from me which was frustrating,” he said. “I got angry and threw the game away in the end, but the mixed doubles has gone some way to getting over that.
“I had a couple of hours between my singles quarter-final and the doubles bronze medal match, so I just chilled out for a bit and got my head right. I wanted to fight, and that’s what I did in the end alongside Jo.
“We went 2-1 up after a really tight third game, their heads dropped from there and we gave them a few shouts at the start of the fourth game just to let them know we were there.
“All in all, while there have been some disappointments at these Games, to come away with the team silver and the mixed doubles bronze still feels pretty good,” added Drinkhall. “I have to remember I’m still only 20 and that I will improve in the future.
“In this tournament while Singapore have still dominated, we’ve at least shown them that we’re here and that we're closing in on them. We’re a young team, we’ve pressured them in every event and we’re only going to get better. We’re training hard and Singapore now know what we’re all about. When Glasgow comes round in four years’ time we'll be after that gold.
Parker was equally delighted to win a medal after the Rotherham student finished fourth in the women’s team event.
“To come away from these Games without a medal would have been devastating, because I’ve felt as if I’ve played well enough to merit one,” she said. “But now that it’s in the bag I’m just so happy, I can’t describe it.
“I was a little embarrassed at one point because I lost track of the score and thought we’d won when we still had a couple more points to win, but it’s all about the medals and we came through in the end.
“The fact that the entire team came out to support us meant to much, especially for Andrew Baggelay and Liam Pitchford when they have a men’s doubles semi-final tomorrow morning.
“You try to block the crowd out at times and just focus on the game, but knowing that these guys were in the stands cheering for us made a massive difference and it just makes you want to win it for them with the backing they give you.”