Drinkhall eager to prove class
Table tennis star Paul Drinkhall wants to prove he belongs when the London Olympics gets under way later this year.
The 22-year-old, who recently broke into the top 100 in the International Table Tennis Federation world rankings, came agonisingly close to qualifying for the Games off his own back.
Drinkhall lost a make-or-break seven-game thriller to Yaroslav Zhmudenko at the Final World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Doha.
That meant he, along with five others selected in Team GB's squad today, had to utilise host nation qualification places to secure their spots - something that has made Drinkhall all the more determined to upset the odds.
"I got pretty close in Doha to qualifying by right and unfortunately just missed out," he said.
"It would have been great for me to qualify of my own back, and for the sport of table tennis, so not to do so was very disappointing.
"If you qualify by right, you get that extra feeling that you belong but we are lucky this year that the Olympics is in London and we have this to fall back on.
"I have still got this spot and I am going to give it my all; I want to knock some players out that did qualify by right to prove to everyone that I should be there."
Drinkhall is the only Briton represented in the men's singles, but will be joined by Andrew Baggaley and Liam Pitchford for the team event.
Of the trio, Baggaley is the most experienced and enjoyed success on these shores in 2002 when scooping two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
"It was unbelievable to win two golds in Manchester, but I am now at a totally different stage of my career," said the 29-year-old.
"I am a proven medal winner, having won five Commonwealth Games medals, which will help me in the Olympics."
On that occasion, Baggaley was roared on by the kind of passionate crowd that will turn out in London.
"The support was massive - it really does help when you are playing in front of that," he added. "I used it to my advantage and it was brilliant.
"It will definitely help all the athletes, not only from table tennis but the other sports as well - it is a massive advantage."
Joanna Parker will lead the women's charge in the singles and compete alongside Kelly Sibley and Na Liu in the team competition.
Parker is currently in China as she looks to find her best form in preparation for the showpiece.
"We are here getting ready for the China Open, which is probably one of the strongest events of the years," she said. "It is a very strong field.
"We are hoping to do what we can but we always have the Olympics in the back of our minds and playing at this level will definitely
give us good experience for that.
"The training out here is second to none, so it is a really good time for us."