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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007, 17:44 GMT
Drinkhall targets Olympic glory
By Mark Barden

Paul Drinkhall
Drinkhall already has his eyes on London 2012 success
New British champion Paul Drinkhall says he can challenge for table tennis gold at the London Olympics in 2012.

Drinkhall, 17, defeated Alex Perry 4-1 in last weekend's national final to become the youngest men's title-holder since Chester Barnes in 1962.

He told BBC Sport: "If I keep improving I'll definitely be there and I could be up in the medals - hopefully gold."

Drinkhall could yet qualify for Beijing 2008, but admitted: "It's probably come a couple of years too early for me."

The rising star from Middlesbrough also won the British men's doubles title with Darius Knight, 17, who beat him in the under-21 final.

Drinkhall confirmed his potential last year when he took Olympic champion Ryu Seung Min to three match points at the China Open.

Currently 11th in the junior world rankings, he has a busy 2007 ahead of him including senior European and world championships.

It will be such a big thing in the build-up to 2012 to have a new national centre

Paul Drinkhall

He will also be travelling to China in June for a mixture of training and tournaments designed to develop his game.

"I've done it several times now - the minimum stay is three weeks, but the longest so far has been six." he said.

"It was pretty hard at first but I'm getting used to it, and it's definitely worth going because the standard in China is amazing.

"The whole atmosphere is geared towards working hard to improve, and at the moment it's difficult to get the same facilities in this country."

Drinkhall is hoping that will change later this year, when a new UK national table tennis centre is due to open.

Funding is in place, and the British Table Tennis Federation (BTTF) is currently in the process of choosing a location.

Drinkhall said: "It will be such a big thing in the build-up to 2012 to have a national centre.

"Everyone will be able to train together and get the quality matches they need instead of having to travel around a lot like we do at the moment.

"We could also get three or four good Chinese players over here training, with us instead of us going to China.

"It would build a great team spirit, and really boost the younger players that are already coming through behind the likes of me and Darius."

BTTF chairman Alex Murdoch confirmed the new centre is scheduled to open at an existing sports facility in August.

SEE ALSO
Drinkhall captures national title
05 Mar 07 |  Table Tennis


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