Chesterfield table tennis star Liam Pitchford’s road to Toyko Olympics starts next month in Minsk

Chesterfield table tennis star Liam Pitchford (Pic: Paul Sanwell)
Chesterfield table tennis star Liam Pitchford (Pic: Paul Sanwell)

Chesterfield’s Liam Pitchford might be a Team GB veteran but he’s still delighted to be called up to represent his country.

The 25-year-old has been selected for the European Games, with a possible place at the Tokyo Olympics up for grabs.

He’ll wear the colours of GB in the men’s singles and team event at the Minsk tournament.

The thrill of selection hasn’t yet worn off for the two-time Olympian.

“It’s always an honour to be selected to represent your country,” he said.

“It’s my fourth time for Team GB but I’m still hungry to wear that shirt.”

At the European Games, table tennis will be one of three sports, alongside archery and shooting, where there will be opportunities to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.

The top three athletes in the men’s and women’s singles, plus the gold medal-winning teams, will all earn an automatic place for Toyko.

Qualification is not Pitchford’s primary focus as he prepares to travel to Belarus next month, but it is a consideration.

“I don’t really want to think too much about qualifying for Tokyo,” he said.

“I just want to go out there and perform how I know I can.

“If I can string some performances together and I’m at the top of my game, I can win matches. I’m going there with the process in mind.

“There are only two players per country allowed in the singles, which makes it a bit easier on paper, but everyone has qualification in mind and everyone is hungry to win, so it will be tough.”

Team GB team Leader Simon Mills added: “The focus is on enabling the athletes to deliver their best performances, with the added incentive of the opportunity to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.”