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Last Updated: Friday, 15 June 2007, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Drinkhall has eyes on top table

By Phil Harlow

PAUL DRINKHALL FACTFILE
Paul Drinkhall
Date of Birth: 16 January 1990
Ranking: 1 (Britain); 139 (Europe); 230 (world)
Coach: Liu Jia-Yi

Most 17-year-olds would be happy to be the best in the country at anything, but Paul Drinkhall is somewhat underwhelmed by his status as Britain's number one table tennis player.

"I'm number one but, to be honest, that doesn't really mean that much," Drinkhall told BBC Sport.

"In the world rankings, I'm 230th in the seniors so there's a long way to go to get where I want to be."

Where Drinkhall - who picks out tennis star Roger Federer as his sporting hero - wants to be is at the top of the world rankings, while a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London would not go amiss either.

Drinkhall has already spent considerable amounts of time in China to train with and play against some of the best players in the world, and his early experiences on the senior circuit have marked out his immense promise.

"I played [Olympic champion] Ryu Seung Min six months ago and had three match points against him," said Drinkhall, who eventually lost the China Open match 6-11 7-11 11-9 11-7 4-11 11-9 13-11.

"I've played a few other top 10 and top 50 players and been close and if I'd managed to turn those into wins I'd be about 100 in the world rankings, but hopefully I can learn a lot from those experiences."

Steve Redgrave won his first Olympic gold medal six years before I was born so he has an incredible amount of experience to pass on

Paul Drinkhall
Drinkhall's career in the sport started 10 years ago when he went along to watch his grandfather Ray play in a local table tennis league near his home in Ormesby near Middlesbrough.

"There was a free table at the end - so we just picked the bat up and had a go," he said.

"We enjoyed it and started going down every week and would have a go at the end each time.

"We played tennis at the time, and through that we found a table tennis coach and gradually got better and started moving up the levels."

Drinkhall, who carried the flag for the Great Britain team at this year's Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney, trains for up to 30 hours a week, in addition to fitness work and matches at the weekend.

He has the added advantage of being able to turn to Olympic and Paralympic legends Sir Steve Redgrave and Dame Tanni Grey Thompson for advice after being selected as part of the Team Visa mentoring scheme.

"I think this scheme will make a lot of difference to me," said Drinkhall.

"The losses I've had against the big players have been because of my head, so getting to speak to all these other people with more experience will hopefully help me prepare better.

"The medals Steve and Tanni have got are just unbelievable. Steve won his first Olympic gold medal six years before I was born so he has an incredible amount of experience to pass on."



SEE ALSO
Redgrave takes on new mentor role
29 May 07 |  Sport Homepage
Drinkhall continues rankings rise
24 Apr 07 |  Table Tennis
Drinkhall targets Olympic glory
08 Mar 07 |  Table Tennis
Drinkhall captures national title
05 Mar 07 |  Table Tennis
Stars for 2012
21 Jan 07 |  Olympics 2012
Table tennis guide
28 Feb 06 |  Table Tennis


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