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Team GB take table tennis places for 2012 Olympics

Paul Drinkhall
Drinkhall narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2008 Games

Team GB will field a six-strong table tennis team at the 2012 Olympic Games after being granted permission to use host nation qualification places.

The British Olympic Association decides which sports and athletes are given automatic places for London 2012 depending on their competitiveness.

And this ruling means that three men and three women will compete in London.

Women's coach Alan Cooke said: "We have to try to qualify in our own right [but] we have the wildcard if needed."

BOA chief executive and Team GB chef de mission Andy Hunt stated: "The British Table Tennis Federation has demonstrated that they have laid solid foundations to maximise the opportunity of competing at a home Games and developed programmes to ensure a strong long term legacy for the sport.

"British Table Tennis has proven that the young squad of players are capable of delivering a credible performance on the field of play in 2012.

"In winning the silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, England's men finished above three nations who competed in the last Olympic Games in Beijing.

"Real progress is being made in elite performance; there are now four British players - two male, two female - ranked in the top 200 in the world compared with none prior to the Beijing 2008 Olympics."

Britain's top ranked player is Paul Drinkhall, who is ranked 88th in the world, while his female counterpart Kelly Sibley is ranked 135th.

Drinkhall, 21, said: "My ultimate dream has always been to be an Olympic medallist and to have the chance to compete in my home country is better than any dream."

Both are in Britian's five-strong development squad which trains full-time in Sheffield.

Seventeen-year-old Liam Pitchford, who won silver for England at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and is ranked at 245th in the world, is also in the squad alongside Joanna Parker and Gavin Evans.

Darius Knight, who won a men's double gold medal at the Youth Olympic games with Drinkhall in 2006, is also vying to make the team.

Table tennis joins handball, volleyball and weightlifting as sports that have been handed host nation automatic qualification places.

Basketball has also been offered a place, although that is subject to approval by the International Basketball Federation.

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