Chesterfield’s Liam Pitchford has been confirmed as one of two Team GB table tennis players going to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The 22-year-old will be joined by Paul Drinkhall, who alongside Pitchford helped England to bronze at the World Team Championships in Malaysia in March.
It’s a dream come true for Pitchford, who was part of Team GB in London four years ago, but this time has qualified outright as a result of his International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Ranking.
“It feels amazing,” he said.
“It’s a dream come true. After London I said I wanted to qualify for Rio in my own right and it’s been a long time coming.”
Pitchford, who plies his trade in Germany for TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen, is making no predictions on where he could finish in the men’s singles in Brazil this August.
But he’s happy to admit an Olympic medal would be the pinnacle of his career to date.
“That’s been my goal since I was young,” he said.
“To be an Olympic medalist would be amazing.
“I don’t want to put a number or place on where I want to get to, I’m just going to go out and see how it goes.
“Anything is possible, we’ve proved we can compete and beat the best players in the world over the past two years.
“Taking bronze in Malaysia in March was far more than anyone could have expected, it was pretty special, but if we play like that again at the Olympics, there’s no reason why a medal isn’t a possibility.”
Being joined in Rio by England team-mate Drinkhall is another bonus for Pitchford, who will head to Korea next month for a training camp and tournament, before further training in Europe and the final preparations in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
“We’ve been in the team together for a while now and we’ve pushed each other on to where we are now this season,” said Pitchford.
“I’m delighted that he has qualified as well and hopefully we can get some good results.”
Pitchford says Olympic qualification is the result of many years of hard work and dedication.
But it hasn’t been achieved alone.
“My family and friends have all been pleased for me, they know how much work I’ve put in,” he said.
“I have to thank my parents for where I am, from picking up a bat they’ve supported me, believed in me and given a lot of hours to help me get to where I am now.
“Our men’s coach Alan Cooke has been there all te way with us, Table Tennis England have backed us in everything we’ve done, we have to thank them for a lot of the results.”