GB table tennis ace is excited by legacy

PUBLISHED: 11:00 30 July 2015

Emdad Rahman (centre) with James Smith (left) and GB Olympian Paul Drinkhall (right) at Stratford's East Village (pic: Mikael Buck/East Village)

Emdad Rahman (centre) with James Smith (left) and GB Olympian Paul Drinkhall (right) at Stratford's East Village (pic: Mikael Buck/East Village)

© Mikael Buck / East Village

2012 Olympian goes back to Stratford to launch table tennis centre

Emdad Rahman takes on GB Olympian Paul DrinkhallEmdad Rahman takes on GB Olympian Paul Drinkhall

British number one and London 2012 Olympian Paul Drinkhall returned to the Olympic Park to help unveil table tennis facilities at East Village recently.

Drinkhall was in Stratford alongside British prospect James Smith to launch the Ping! tables for the residents living in what was the Athletes’ Village three years ago.

In 2007, Drinkhall became the youngest player since Forest Gate-born Chester Barnes to win the English Senior Championships, a title he has since gone on to win a further four times.

Drinkhall’s illustrious career has seen him take part in two Commonwealth Games and many World Championships, earning him two nominations for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award earlier in his career.

Having represented his country at the 2012 Games he said being in east London once again brought back great memories.

“It was totally surreal,” he said. “London became the centre of the planet for a few weeks. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite like it in my life. It was an honour to be a part of it all.”

It is hoped that the new tables will encourage more people to take up the sport, with the hope of

unearthing another star.

And Drinkhall, who won gold in the mixed doubles at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, is keen to stress the benefits of playing table tennis on a regular basis.

“I always advise everybody and anybody to get involved, try it. If you try it you’ll like it, you might even love it,” he added.

“It’s a great sport to try with your friends and when you see yourself improving you’ll really see the benefits.

“If it wasn’t for table tennis I would still be in North Yorkshire. It’s a great place, but I wouldn’t have experienced the world and the Olympic village. I used to play a lot of sports alone and with my brother who is five years older.

“My grandad used to play in the local leagues and my parents took me to a few local games. I started playing early and really enjoyed it. I haven’t really looked back since.”

Drinkhall appeared at the event in Stratford alongside 14-year-old Smith, who is sponsored by Get Living London at East Village through SportsAid.

There are high hopes for the youngster, who has competed in four major championships so far, including the Spanish Youth Open, National Championships and the National Cadet Masters.

Having reached two semi-finals already in his career, Smith explained why he enjoys playing the sports so much.

“Table tennis is a really fun sport and anyone of my age or younger can start playing. If young people want to do well like me then they should join a club and play regularly,” said Smith.

“I do the same and I now attend tournaments, make new friends all the time and get to travel to interesting places.

“It’s a life that young people like me can reach if they have the dedication. Thank you to my sponsors for their faith in me.”

The new facilities are located in the Olympic Park and are hoped to form part of the legacy that were promised from the Games.

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