Liam Pitchford qualifies for the Rio Olympics

Derbyshire Institute of Sport (DIS) Gold Programme table tennis Liam Pitchford says he is delighted to have qualified for the Rio Olympics.

The British number one, from Brimington, played at the London 2012 Games, where the host nation were handed qualification places.

But the 22-year-old has earned his own spot in Brazil courtesy of his world ranking of 51, where he will be joined by fellow Englishman Paul Drinkhall (ranked 60).

“After London, experiencing that Olympics, I told myself when Rio came around I wanted to be qualifying in my own right, which didn’t happen in London,” he said.

“Now I can go out there and tell myself I deserve to be there and to finally make it is absolutely amazing.”

Liam is expecting a different vibe in South America to his first Olympic experience on home soil and added: “In London it was absolutely incredible, everyone got behind it, there was a buzz around the whole country.

“It’s probably not going to be as big but I think it will be special in its own way. It will be different to being at home with the whole crowd on your side, but it will be fun and I’m ready to get out there and start competing.”

A sense of belonging at Rio means a lot to Liam, who came through the ranks with the Staveley-based Colin Deaton Table Tennis Academy as a youngster and now plays for German club TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen.

Having won two silver medals and an individual bronze for England at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games – and since reached a career-high 39 in the world rankings – the 2014 Derbyshire Sports Awards finalist feels ready for the challenge.

“Qualifying as a host nation, I was thinking ‘do I deserve to be here’ and it was my first Olympics, but now I’ve been to one before, I’m going to go out there and give it my best shot,” he said.

“Anything past the quarter finals would be absolutely out of this world, but nothing is impossible, anything can happen.

“The DIS has played a big part in this season and helping me qualify for Rio and I’m really grateful for all the support I’ve been given. Hopefully I can go out there and do everyone proud.”

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