England’s table tennis stars are enjoying a well-earned rest after producing our best Commonwealth Games results.
The team returned from Glasgow with five medals – including a first ever singles medal and a clean sweep of gold, silver and bronze in the mixed doubles.
That resulted in the gold and silver-medal winning pairs appearing on BBC1’s live show with Clare Balding and Mark Chapman at the end of the day’s competition, while an interview with our chief executive Sara Sutcliffe was aired on the BBC in between the two mixed doubles medal matches.
Further coverage of our sport has been generated in various media, including The Times, Sunday Times, Sun, Telegraph and Sunday People among others.
The medal-winning started with the men’s team of Liam Pitchford, Paul Drinkhall, Andrew Baggaley, Danny Reed and Sam Walker, who took silver.
Liam’s momentous semi-final victory over India’s Harmeet Desai – 17-15 in the fifth having been 2-0 and 10-4 up – sent them through to the final against Singapore, but they found the top seeds too strong and went down 3-1, despite a doubles victory for Paul and Andrew.
The women’s team of Joanna Drinkhall, Kelly Sibley, Tin-Tin Ho, Karina Le Fevre and Hannah Hicks reached the quarter-finals, where they were narrowly beaten 3-2 by Malaysia, with Jo winning her two singles matches and Tin-Tin holding a 2-0 lead over Ng Sock Khim in the decider before her experienced opponent battled back to win 3-2.
Attention then switched to the singles and doubles events, with England progressing well on all fronts. The only defeat on the first two days was Tin-Tin’s reverse to Yu Mengyu of Singapore – though she took a set off the world No 10.
As the path to the medal matches unfolded, Kelly and Jo were both defeated in the last 16 of the women’s singles, while Sam and Karina (mixed doubles), Tin-Tin and Karina (women’s doubles) and Andrew (men’s singles) also went out at the same stage.
The quarter-finals marked the end of the road for Danny and Sam (men’s doubles) and Paul (men’s singles).
At the semi-final stage, England were in contention for no fewer than six medals, including Liam closing in on that historic singles triumph.
The England No 1 faced world No 12 Gao Ning for a place in the final, having beaten the Singaporean in their first two encounters, but lost to him in the team competition in Glasgow.
In what was widely regarded as the finest match of the singles competition, Liam twice battle back from a game behind to level, and then moved into the lead at 3-2.
But the Singaporean dug deep into his reserves of energy and experience to take the final two ends and end Liam’s dream of gold.
However, the Chesterfield man was not to be denied his place on the podium, shaking off a stubborn SK Achanta of India 4-2 in the bronze-medal match.
It was the mixed doubles that provided England with a unique clean sweep of all the medals. Paul and Jo became the golden couple of the Games by defeating Liam and Tin-Tin in the final. Danny and Kelly then emulated Liam and Tin-Tin’s semi-final feat of lowering the colours of Jian Zhan and Feng Tianwei of Singapore 3-1 to seal bronze – an emotional first Commonwealth medal for Kelly.
There was disappointment for Liam and Paul in the men’s doubles bronze medal match, beaten by Jian Zhan and Yang Zi of Singapore despite battling back from 2-0 down to level.
And Jo and Kelly also missed out on a bronze in the women’s doubles, seeing their Canadian opponents come from 2-0 down to take the last step on the podium.
However, with a record-breaking haul of five medals, England have much to be proud of.
Table Tennis England’s Head of Coaching and Performance, Simon Mills, said: “It was an incredible performance all round, with Liam winning our first singles medal at a major multi-sport games, backed up by a clean sweep in the mixed doubles led by Paul and Jo.
“The really exciting thing is there’s a lot more to come from these players. This gives us a great stepping stone towards 2016, 2018 and beyond.”
Table Tennis England President Doreen Stannard added her personal thanks as well, saying: “My heartiest congratulations to all. Brilliant performance, I’m very proud.”
By Paul Stimpson
August 4th, 2014