Liam Pitchford reflects on his Rio Olympics

Liam Pitchford, from Brimington, Chesterfield, reflects on his Rio Olympics.

“It was amazing to be part of the best ever Team GB performance in Rio and to deliver the best table tennis results we’ve had.

We reached the quarter-finals by beating France 3-2 – every match went to five sets and we saved four match points – I saved one and Sam Walker saved three.

It proved that no matter what the score, we just kept fighting and tried to find a way.

It was pretty long and tiring but the atmosphere was amazing and my whole family stayed up to watch back home even though it finished at 3.30am in the UK!

Then we played China in the quarter-finals and even though we lost 3-0 we won a set in every match. Paul Drinkhall and I were both 1-0 up against our opponents and we had them worried at a few points in the match.

We just went in like any other match – there’s no point going in scared of them because then you’ve got no chance.

They’re probably used to people going out there thinking ‘it’s China, we’ve already lost’, but we went with a different attitude and that showed.

I had a good chance at 1-1 and 9-7 against Ma Long but he’s the Olympic champion, world champion and hasn’t lost for 30 matches and he came back to win. I’m disappointed to lose but pleased with our form.

In the singles, I was a bit disappointed with the draw because I ended up playing the No 7 seed Youngsik Jeoung from Korea in the last 32, but it is what it is and you can’t do anything about it.

I had a good first round win against Kenjaev, though I hadn’t seen him play before and he surprised me a bit.

I thought I played quite well against Youngsik, there’s not much more that I could have done. He had an answer to everything I tried. Maybe if I’d taken the third set when I came from 10-5 down to lead 11-10, it might have been different because I’d have been 2-1 up, but it’s something to work on.

It was great being in the athletes’ village and part of Team GB as a whole. I had a bit of a chat with Andy Murray in the physio room and he was friendly and interested in how we were doing. I think there’s a lot more respect for table tennis in the other sports after what we’ve done this year.

Performing so well in Rio has made all of us in the squad even more determined to improve and do better in the future.

You don’t want to think too far ahead but hopefully in Tokyo we’ll be four years older and better.

And at the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games in two years, we’ve got to be taking golds in some of the events, especially the team – we want to be taking that gold after getting silver last time.

We’ll probably be the favourites if we keep improving, even though Singapore will be strong and India will be strong. We believe we can win it. I got the singles bronze last time in Glasgow and I’d like to do better than that next time.

First, it’s back to the new season. I’m taking a bit of a break and my first match in the French league is on September 6.

The French league’s got a lot of good players, so there are going to be good matches.

After playing in Germany for three years, it’s something new and hopefully it will be good for me.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who sent us messages of support and congratulations in Rio – it really meant a lot and helped to keep us all motivated to perform to our best.”

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