Drinkhall makes winning start to Olympic qualification

Paul Drinkhall has started his Olympic qualification campaign Credit: PA

North East table tennis star Paul Drinkhall has made a winning start to his qualification campaign for Rio 2016.

The 26-year-old, from Loftus, overcame Belgium's Florent Lambiet with a 4-3 victory at an Olympic Qualification Event in Halmstad, Sweden.

Drinkhall, ranked 68th in the world, made hard work of the opening group match against his Belgian opponent, who is ranked 133 places lower in the in the world rankings at 201.

Getting off to a slow start, Drinkhall lost the first two sets 5-11 and 6-11 respectively. But he managed to comeback in the third, fourth and fifth sets – 11-8 , 11-5, 11-7 – to lead 3-2 in the match.

The 2016 National Champion then lost the seventh set 11-13, sending the match into a final set. However, he won the decider 13-11.

Drinkhall’s next match is against Turkey's Ibrahim Gunduz at 3.40pm (UK time) today. Another victory could put him through to the main stages of the competition which get underway on April 14.