Pitchford relieved to have Commonwealth gold under his belt

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 14:  (L-R) Paul Drinkhall and Liam Pitchford of England celebrate after defeating Sharath Achanta and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran of India during the Men's Doubles Gold Medal Table Tennis match on day 10 of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Oxenford Studios on April 14, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.  (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 14: (L-R) Paul Drinkhall and Liam Pitchford of England celebrate after defeating Sharath Achanta and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran of India during the Men's Doubles Gold Medal Table Tennis match on day 10 of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Oxenford Studios on April 14, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Liam Pitchford admits winning his first Commonwealth Games gold is “a weight off his shoulders” as he returns from Australia with a total of three medals and a new status as England’s record table tennis medal-winner.

Pitchford, part of the England team which won bronze in week one, added men’s doubles gold alongside Paul Drinkhall and then mixed doubles silver with Tin-Tin Ho, repeating their feat from Glasgow 2014.

He could not add a singles medal, going out in the quarter-finals, but his haul took his total to eight medals from the last three Commonwealths – one gold, four silver and three bronze – to move two ahead of Andrew Baggaley as England’s record-holder.

The men’s doubles gold medal match was a thriller as the English pair defeated India’s Sharath Achanta & Sathiyan Gnanasekaran in five tense games 3-2 (11-5, 10-12, 9-11, 11-6, 11-8).

Pitchford, 24, said: “We were 2-1 down but felt like we’d won the three sets so we knew if we carried on playing we could still win the match.

“There were a few loose moments in the match but at the end we did what we needed to do.

“I’ve wanted that gold medal and to get it was a weight off my shoulders and it helped a lot for me to relax going into the mixed doubles final the next day.”

That final, against Gao Ning & Yu Mengyu of Singapore was another tense one and the English pair had game points in each of the first two sets but could not capitalise as they were beaten 3-0 (12-10, 12-10, 11-9).

“Obviously I’m proud and happy to get a silver medal but tinged with a little bit of disappointment, you never want to lose a final,” said Pitchford. “It was a close match. The first two sets we had set points and if we’d taken one of them maybe it would have been a different match.

“We played the right way but maybe their experience told at the end in the crucial points. I’m not disappointed with a silver medal, it’s nice.

“We weren’t seeded to get to the final so it is a big achievement to come away with a silver medal.”

Pitchford reached the singles quarter-finals by defeating Bode Abiodun of Nigeria and Scotland’s Gavin Rumgay both 4-1, but was eliminated 4-2 (9-11, 13-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-7, 11-9) by eventual bronze medallist Achanta in the last eight, the Indian avenging his defeat by Pitchford in the bronze medal match four years ago.

Pitchford added: “In the singles, I didn’t really play my best table tennis but in the doubles events I focused well and to come away with medals, I’m really happy with that. It’s never bad to come away with a gold, a silver and a bronze.”