London 2012: ‘Rock star’ Drinkhall and girlfiend Parker progress

Great Britain's Paul Drinkhall in action on his way to beating Kuwait's Ibrahem Alhasan in the first round of the men's singles table tennis at the ExCel Arena, London. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA Wire.
Great Britain's Paul Drinkhall in action on his way to beating Kuwait's Ibrahem Alhasan in the first round of the men's singles table tennis at the ExCel Arena, London. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA Wire.
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Paul Drinkhall stood eye to eye with the Queen earlier today before delivering a royal performance in front of a crowd fit for a “rock star”.

The 22-year-old from Middlesbrough, Team GB’s only representative in the men’s singles at the London 2012 Olympics, capped a fine day for Team GB’s table tennis squad with a straight-games success against Kuwait’s Ibrahem Al-Hasan.

That was a repeat of the scoreline that Britain’s female representative - and Drinkhall’s girlfriend who he lives with in Rotherham and trains with in Sheffield - Joanna Parker produced earlier in the day.

Both were cheered on by a passionate crowd at the ExCel Arena that left the host nation’s premier table tennis star feeling more like Paul McCartney than Paul Drinkhall.

He said: “I have been to concerts and, obviously there are a lot more people there, but this is an experience like that.

“I managed to see the Queen this morning as well. She visited the village and I got some snaps. I did not meet her but was stood about a metre away from her.”

Such an amazing day came on the back of disappointment for Drinkhall, who - much like Parker -was forced to miss last night’s opening ceremony due to his participation today.

It is not a decision he regrets, with the Middlesbrough-born right-hander insisting he would not swap today’s triumph for anything.

He added: “When Jo initially said we should miss it, I said ‘Are you joking?’. But then I thought about it and decided I would rather win today.

“It might not have even affected me, but if I had lost today then I would have been pretty peed off.

“In the end, we got to experience it on the balcony and I think we actually had the best view of the fireworks!”

The hallmark of his and Parker’s performances today was their ability to deliver the goods when put under pressure by their respective opponents.

Indeed, for all their victory margins were impressive, both were tested significantly at times - something Drinkhall feels will stand them in good stead.

“They were not easy four-nils,” he added. “There were two close sets in Jo’s and three were close in mine.

“It is not like we breezed through; we have been in close situations and that gives us an advantage.”