Paul DRINKHALL in Footsteps of True LegendPhoto: Alex LOMAEV, Butterfly
By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Unbeaten on the first two days of play at the Liebherr 2015 ITTF-European Championships in the Russian city of Ekaterinburg, there was a well-deserved reward for England’s Paul DRINKHALL on the morning of the third day of action.
He received the Johnny LEACH Most Improved England Player of the Year Award; the presentation was made by Sandra DEATON, the Chair of Table Tennis England.
The award is made in the name of player who is a true legend not only of table tennis but of sport; in the 1950s and 1960s Johnny LEACH was a household name.
He stood alongside the great English sporting personalities of the era; the direct result of winning the Men’s Singles title at the World Championships in both 1949 and 1951, whilst being a member of the outfit that won the Swaything Cup in 1953, the only time England has ever secured the title.
Sadly he passed away on Thursday 5th June 2014, he was 91 years old.
A prestigious award, the accolade acknowledges the success gained by Paul DRINKHALL in the past 18 months.
Last April, he won the Men’s Singles title at the GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour Spanish Open in Almeria; later in the year in Ekaterinburg, he was the runner up at the GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour, Airports of Regions Russian Open.
Overall, the effect was that he qualified for the prestigious US$ 1,000,000 GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Bangkok where he acquitted himself admirably as he has done this year in Baku at both the NN Table Tennis Club 2015 ITTF Europe TOP 16 and the European Games.
“Paul has made the effort, he is motivated, he works so hard and most importantly he has shown a determination to improve”, said Sandra DEATON, who has been very much at the helm of a period of history in English Table Tennis when re-structuring has been necessary.
“He has travelled to ITTF World Tour tournaments on his own initiative, I congratulate Paul for the endeavour he has shown”, added Sandra Deaton. “He has now played for a long time and still he shows a passion for the sport; he is a very able and talented player and I think now, more and more he believes in himself.”
Now 25 years old, married to the Joanna, the former Joanna PARKER with a son, Douggie; Paul DRINKHALL was earmarked by none other than the 1971 World champion, Stellan BENGTSSON, in 1999 as arguably Europe’s brightest prospect.
“Now, it’s even harder for Paul with having a family, he has to spend time away from home”, continued Sandra Deaton. “In fact I’ve been having trouble finding a time to make the presentation; that’s why we did it here today!”
At last Sandra DEATON caught up with Paul Drinkhall; in the shadow Johnny LEACH, the award was made; a memorable moment in Ekaterinburg.