Globetrotting table-tennis star Liam Pitchford says he is firing on all cylinders ahead of one of the most important spells of his career.
The 24-year-old Chesterfield player can’t wait for his third Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast in Australia next month when he hopes to land his first gold medal.
But before then, he is gunning for glory at the national championships this weekend, followed by a trip to the Middle East for the Qatar Open and then a training camp in China in preparation for his mission Down Under.
“It’s a busy period, but I am playing well and feeling full of confidence,” said Pitchford, who is now a full-time professional. “I think I have good chances in all the events.”
Pitchford’s confidence stems from his sparkling performances in the Team World Cup last week when he led England to a bronze medal and even gave the world number two, Fan Zhendong, of China, a fright.
That has lifted him to 53 in the new world rankings just released and fills him with hope that he can bring home more Commonweath Games medals after he won a silver and a bronze at Delhi in 2010 and two silvers and a bronze from Glasgow four years ago.
“My bronze at Glasgow was quite a landmark because it was the first singles medal won by an England player,” he said. “I will be happy with another medal this time, but my aim is to win, and anything less will be a disappointment.”
Pitchford is also bidding for men’s doubles success with Paul Drinkhall after they were agonisingly pipped in the bronze-medal match in Glasgow, and hopes to go one better in the mixed doubles with teenager Tin-Tin Ho after their surprise silver four years ago.
Not bad for a Chesterfield lad who only took up table tennis after trying it one lunchtime at his old school, Brimington Junior, because it was raining outside!