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Bronze medal win 'amazing' for Drinkhall

Liam Pitchford (left), Sam Walker (middle) and Paul Drinkhall (right) guided England to a bronze medal at the World Team Championships Credit: ITTF World

North East table tennis player Paul Drinkhall says team spirit and mental strength were the main factors behind England’s remarkable bronze medal-winning performance at the World Team Championships in Malaysia.

The 26-year-old, from Loftus, helped England to bronze in Kuala Lumpur with a string of impressive performances alongside team-mates Liam Pitchford and Sam Walker.

Although England lost the Semi Final to Japan, they still became the first nation to be promoted to the top division to get on the podium at the next World Championships.

Drinkhall said:

It’s amazing. We just keep looking at each other and thinking ‘we’ve got a medal!’ It’s something you think about but you don’t really see it happening. We just took our chance and made it happen.

– Paul Drinkhall, Bronze medalist at the World Team Table Tennis Championships
Paul Drinkhall (left) celebrates with Liam Pitchford (centre) after England's 3-2 win over France in the Quarter Finals Credit: ITTF World

England made a slow start to the tournament with defeats to both France and Sweden. But victory over second seeds Germany - along with favourable results from Sweden - provided the platform for qualification from the group stage.

I think the win against Germany was the turning point, even then we needed Sweden to take two wins off Germany, which they did.

For us to get through the group was a big positive and we relaxed after that and started to play a lot better.

– Paul Drinkhall, Bronze medalist at the World Team Table Tennis Championships

England beat Poland in the first playoff round and then got revenge for the group defeat against France when Drinkhall beat Emmanuel Lebesson in the final game to clinched a dramatic 3-2 victory. He said:

In games like that, it is mental. We play at the same club and know each other’s games well. We’re at a similar level. I managed to build up a lead and he did well to stay in the game, though I should have closed it out. When he had the match point I just tried to put him under pressure and then I got the two points I needed

We had the belief as a team and looking at my team-mates on the bench and the supporters in the crowd helped me to get through it.

– Paul Drinkhall, Bronze medalist at the World Team Table Tennis Championships