30 Sep 2020

Six times the winner of the men’s singles event at the National Championships, Liam Pitchford is not only establishing himself amongst the elite names of players who have represented England; he is maintaining local tradition.

He hails from the Chesterfield area in the East Midlands, a part of the country with a strong tradition in the sport of table tennis; both former national champions, Alan Cooke and Nicola Deaton, both hail from the region.

by Olalekan Okusan

At 27 year of age, when COVID-19 brought international play to a conclusion, he was listed at no.15 on the world rankings; his highest being no.12 in August 2019.

“I fell in love with table tennis when I was at school that was the first time I played. I just stumbled across it when I was at school, Brimington Junior School, it was raining outside and they had a lunchtime club on and I went with some friends for something to do and I enjoyed it. When I started it I found it exciting and when I saw the speed and spin involved I wanted to be able to do that as well.” Liam Pitchford

Now, having featured in the Olympic Games in London and Rio de Janeiro Pitchford is aiming for his third appearance at the global sports fiesta in Japan but he admitted that the postponement of the Olympic Games necessitated by coronavirus pandemic was disappointing.

“Of course it’s disappointing because it’s the pinnacle of every athlete’s career but the right decision was made for the health of the world so I hope it can be held when everything is safe and well. The first few months I wasn’t able to practise so I used that time to work on my fitness and other aspects of life which was refreshing. Now I’m back in practice and enjoying working towards the resumption of tournaments. Also the lockdown afforded me the opportunity to spend more time at home which was nice as I am used to travelling a lot. I also had the time to look at where my game was at before lockdown and see where I could be better and improve.” Liam Pitchford

Since turning professional, Pitchford has featured for teams in Denmark, Germany, France, and now Japan and Russia but for him, table tennis has improved his life and takes him across the globe.

“Table tennis has given me the opportunity to travel the world and meet many new friends and experience different cultures.

There is so much skill involved in table tennis and you have to be able to switch on not just physically but mentally also to outthink your opponent. My parents have played a massive role to get me where I am today. The amount of hours and money they put in driving me up and down the country when I was young I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank them enough.” Liam Pitchford

Since stopping schooling at 16 after finishing his GCSE examinations, Pitchford has devoted most of his time to table tennis.

“Right now I’m fully focused on playing as long as I can; then after that when I’m finished playing maybe I will look at other things to do with my time.” Liam Pitchford

He is yet to make his mind on what next to do after retirement, but Pitchford is ready to help groom the next generation of English players.

“I’m not sure; I haven’t thought too much about it, going into coaching after retirement but of course it would be nice to help the next generation of English players in some way if I can.” Liam Pitchford.

Success has come the way of Pitchford but his most memorable moment was winning men’s doubles gold with Paul Drinkhall at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

“My proudest moment was probably winning Commonwealth Games gold. I grew up watching the Commonwealth Games so it was always a goal of mine and to finally do it was an amazing feeling. Of course table tennis has given me so much. Yes it has in a lot of ways, some of the closest and most important people to me I met through table tennis and it has given me the opportunity to go to so many amazing places that I probably wouldn’t normally have the chance.” Liam Pitchford

Also, Pitchford has wise words for future generations.

”For upcoming players, my advice would be to work smart, follow your dreams and always try to enjoy every moment on the table.” Liam Pitchford

Features Liam Pitchford