LONDON 2012: Drinkhall determined to prove he merits his place
PAUL Drinkhall insists he has a point to prove after being forced to rely on a host nation quota place to secure his London 2012 selection.
BELIEF: British table tennis number one Paul Drinkhall is determined to prove he merits his Olympic selection for Team GB (Getty Images)
Drinkhall - who just missed out on qualification to the Beijing Olympics - has been the long-time British table tennis number one and is the only UK player ranked inside the world's top 100.
But he fell just short of securing an automatic place at the recent qualifying tournament in Doha.
Great Britain failed to qualify any players through the world rankings or qualifying tournaments, meaning they had to rely on six host nation quota places awarded at the discretion of the British Olympic Association.
This means GB have three players in both the men's and women's team competitions, with one representative in each of the singles competitions.
Drinkhall, 22, Andrew Baggaley, 29, and Liam Pitchford, 18 will contest the men's team event while Joanna Parker, 25, Kelly Sibley, 24, and Na Liu, 29, complete the women's team.
It is expected Drinkhall and national champion Parker will be the selected representatives in the singles event.
"It feels amazing to have made it. I've been thinking of this moment since we won the bid," said Drinkhall.
"I suppose qualifying by right gives you an extra feeling of belonging there but we are lucky that the Olympics are in London and we've got this to fall back on.
"I'm going to try to prove to everybody that I should be there and I merit my place.
"What happened in Doha was very disappointing because I know it would have got us another place in the singles. However, as a team we know we can challenge the top players in the world.
"I got pretty close to qualifying by right and I think I've improved a lot of the last couple of years. In the last six to eight months I've been playing much better, so I'm excited."
Richard Yule, chief executive of the English Table Tennis Association, insists there is no shame in relying on host nation qualifying places.
And he claims the future is bright as they look towards Rio 2016 and beyond - citing close ties with China, whose dominance of the sport is underlined by the fact they've won 41 medals in 24 events, including 20 gold, since the sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1988
"There is no question that table tennis in the UK is improving and all the players selected are on an upward trend in the world ranking list," he said.
"Our target is to qualify people by right in Rio.
"We are up against the world's strongest nation in their favourite sport but our performance plan is geared towards getting players to do some damage in Rio and then be in contention for medals four years after that in 2020."
© Sportsbeat 2012