November: Paul Drinkhall

Paul Drinkhall - photo by the ITTF– photo provided courtesy of the ITTF

England’s Paul Drinkhall has been selected for SD Sport’s spotlight for November, following his success at the 2015 Olympic Test Event in Rio.

Born in Middlesbrough (January 1990), Paul Drinkhall is an English international table tennis player who has enjoyed great success at both junior and senior levels in the sport. He finished runner-up for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award in 2005 and 2007 and is a Commonwealth Games gold medalist. England No.1 Drinkhall has played club table tennis for: TTC Indeland Jülich (Germany), Nodo TTC Ekeren (Belgium), Sterilgarda club (Italy), Goennern (Germany), SV Plüderhausen (Germany) and Werder Bremen (Germany).

He now plays for French Pro A League side AC Boulogne-Billancourt.

Drinkhall was the World Junior Table Tennis Championships runner-up in 2008, losing out to Chen Chien-an in the final and has won the English National Championships in every age category he was eligible to compete in (Under 10, Under 11, Under 12, Under 14, Under 17 and Senior). In 2007, Drinkhall became the youngest player since Chester Barnes to win the Senior Nationals Senior tournament, after he beat Alex Perry 4-1 in the final.

London 2012 was Drinkhall’s first participation at an Olympic Games, and he qualified for the competition through a host nation place. Drinkhall progressed to the last 32 following victories against Ibrahim Alhasan (Kuwait) and Yang Zi (Singapore), but was knocked-out by Germany’s eventual bronze medalist Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

After the Olympic Games, Paul Drinkhall married Joanna Parker (England women’s international) in 2013, and then in 2014 became the first Englishman since Carl Preen to win an ITTF World Tour gold medal after winning the Spanish Open. Paul Drinkhall was selected to represent England at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where he won a mixed doubles gold with his wife Joanna Drinkhall (Parker), and a men’s team silver for his country.

2014 turned out to have a busy ending for Paul Drinkhall, having already taken the Spanish Open title he went on to reach the final of the 2014 Russian Open (lost to Koki Niwa) which qualified him for the end of year ITTF World Tour Grand Finals becoming the first Englishman to do so since 1996. Baku hosted the inaugural European Games in 2015, and despite being the 16th seed, Drinkhall advanced to the semi-finals before losing out to Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

Drinkhall was invited to take part at the 2015 Olympic Games Test Event in Rio, and went on to claim the men’s table tennis singles title beating Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro in the final.

Drinkhall vs Morizono (2014 Spanish Open Men’s Singles Final) – video kindly shared by the ITTF