Rio 2016: Liam Pitchford relishing 'deserved' Olympic call

By Matt HalfpennyBBC Sport
Liam Pitchford
Liam Pitchford has won four successive national men's doubles titles with Paul Drinkhall

Liam Pitchford is relishing the chance to play at an Olympics where he "deserves" to be there.

The Chesterfield player's selection for the table tennis singles in Rio was confirmed on Thursday.

Five-time Commonwealth medallist Pitchford, 22, competed at London 2012, but only qualified because of Great Britain's home-nation status.

"After experiencing London, I told myself when Rio came around I wanted to qualify in my own right," he said.

"To finally make it is absolutely amazing. In London, I was thinking 'do I deserve to be here?', but now I'm going by qualification and I'll give it my best shot."

Pitchford, who has been supported in his preparations by the Derbyshire Institute of Sport (DIS) gold programme and was formerly on the county's talented athlete scheme (ICON), reached a career-best world ranking of 39 this year.

That put him well inside the qualification cut-off point for the Olympics with his position at 51 in May.

Pitchford 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 in Rio, but I think it will be special in its own way.

"Anything past the quarter-finals would be absolutely out of this world, but nothing is impossible. Anything can happen. I'm really grateful for all the support I've been given and hopefully I can do everyone proud."

Joining him in Brazil will be Paul Drinkhall, ranked 60th, with whom he helped England claim a bronze medal in March's World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur.

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