Paul looks forward as he takes on Europe’s best

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IT’S a little over 70 days since Rotherham’s Paul Drinkhall was knocked out of the Olympics singles but already his attentions have turned to Rio 2016 and beyond that to 2020.

Because while the London Games were the highlight of a packed 2012 sporting calendar and will be remembered fondly by the athletes and spectators, for someone like 22-year-old Drinkhall they were a stepping stone onto greater things.

After being based at the English Institute of Sport in Attercliffe before the Olympics Drinkhall is now a key player for Bremen in Germany.

The Bundesliga club features leading players from across Europe and also competes in table tennis’ version of the Champions League.

Drinkhall said he is already reaping the benefits of competing and training against some top talent.

“I’m practicing daily against the guy who came fourth in the Olympics and the one he beat in the quarter-finals, so it is really helping,” he said.

“I only took a week off after the Olympics before moving out to Bremen. We’ve had a good start in the Champions League and should qualify for the next stage after the groups.

“I’ve kept the house in Rotherham and I’ll still be working from the EIS when we have national squad training camps.”

World ranked 85, Drinkhall is in Italy preparing with the England squad for the European Championships later this month, which take place in Herning, Denmark.

After playing in front of a partizan home crowd in London, Drinkhall, who has just signed a major sponsorship deal with Dunlop, says he is prepared for anything.

“London was amazing; it was an awesome experience. To go from that to playing in front of 500-1,000 people - which is still a big crowd for table tennis - has been tough. We always said that the generation of players coming through will be better prepared for Rio in 2016 or even the 2020 Games.

“I’m 22. The last winner of the European Championships was 31 so I have plenty of time. I’ve got to keep improving and believing that I have what it takes.”