Duo’s international award recognition

Award nominees Paul Drinkhall, Sam Walker, and Chesterfields Liam Pitchford and  Alan Cooke.
Award nominees Paul Drinkhall, Sam Walker, and Chesterfields Liam Pitchford and Alan Cooke.

Chesterfield’s table tennis ace Liam Pitchford and coach Alan Cooke have spoken of their pride after being shortlisted for international awards.

Pitchford has been nominated for the International Table Tennis Federation’s Breakthrough Star Award, alongside England Leopards team-mates Sam Walker and Paul Drinkhall.

England performance coach Cooke has been nominated in the Star Coach category.

Pitchford said: “It’s nice to know we have been recognised for the results we have had this year. We are all proud to have been nominated and hopefully we will win.

“Cookie has been a big part of that. He has brought us together as a team and he definitely deserves his nomination too.”

Cooke said: “I’m surprised, but very pleased and honoured, and humbled in the sense that it’s as a result of the performances of the players.

“I’m delighted the players have been nominated too. The boys have gone out there and put in some huge performances, which we were all very proud of, but there’s a big team behind all of us — we have had a lot of backing from Table Tennis England all the way.”

The nominations follow a terrific year in which the players, guided by Cooke, won bronze medals at the World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur — England’s first podium place at that level since 1983 — and reached the Olympic quarter-finals, losing only to all-conquering China.

The players are up against Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto, who became the world number one under-18 player at the age of 12, and 16-year-old Miu Hirano, also of Japan, who became the youngest winner of the Women’s World Cup.

Both awards will be revealed at a major presentation ceremony in Qatar, on December 8.