In the latest in our series focusing on the England squad for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, we speak to Paul Drinkhall.
Mixed Doubles gold – tick. Men’s Doubles gold – tick. Now Paul Drinkhall is aiming to add to his collection in Birmingham.
It’s a fifth Games for Drinkhall, whose first was in Melbourne in 2006. As well as the Mixed Doubles gold from Glasgow 2014 and Men’s Doubles title from Gold Coast 2018, he has a mixed bronze from Delhi 2010, team silvers from 2010 and 2014 and a team bronze from 2018.
As well as defending the Men’s Doubles, Drinkhall has the belief that he – and the team – can challenge in every category.
Drinkhall, 32, said: “I think I can win everything I’m competing in – that’s the goal, and if I go for anything less than that I’d be doing myself a disservice, really.
“I think it’s genuinely possible to win everything I’ll be playing in, but obviously a lot of other good players, pairs and teams will be thinking similar things. I just need to try to go day by day and do the best I can.
“Hopefully Liam and I can defend our doubles title and it’s a great place to try to challenge to do that. Obviously, the crowd will be behind us and that will be great.
“There’s quite a few pairs that on their day will think they can take the gold and it’s good we’re among them. Seedings don’t really matter – it’s what you come out with, not what you go in with, and we know what we’re capable of.
“There are some external pressures, but most athletes say the same thing, that most pressure comes from yourself and knowing what you want to achieve and that you’ve got to go out and perform, no matter where anyone is ranked.”
Team gold is a big target for the men’s squad, having felt they under-performed in winning bronze at the last Games in Australia.
“We didn’t want the bronze but it’s still an achievement getting a medal,” said Drinkhall. “There’s a lot of teams going out wanting to win and we’re certainly going there to win gold this time.
“We’ve got to focus as a team and individually to get ourselves in a good place to be able to do that. I believe we’re up there as a team and we’ve got to be ready as a team to help each other.
Drinkhall said the achievement of going to a fifth Games is something that will sink in at the end of his career, adding: “I don’t really think about that yet, I think it’s more something you think about when you stop playing.
“Right now, I’m just trying to think about the next one and getting the best results I can. I’m in the position where I could be fighting out for the medals and that’s more on my mind. I’m sure when I look back in years to come, things like that will mean more.”
He is also relishing the prospect of competing in front of a home crowd and especially having his family, including children Dougie and Bonnie, cheering him on.
“Hopefully, my parents and Jo and the kids will be there at some point,” he said. “The kids haven’t watched me play that much, especially the last couple of years, with covid and me being injured for the last Nationals, so they were quite young when they last saw me compete. It will be exciting to have them in the crowd.”
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