Briton Drinkhall dominates the table tennis test in Rio
Great Britain's Paul Drinkhall made his long journey to Rio worthwhile by winning the men's singles event at the Aquece Rio International Table Tennis Tournament on November 19.
Drinkhall, the world number 57, was the only non-South American among the 44 contenders at this Olympic test event but showed no signs of cross-Atlantic jetlag when defeating the Brazilian player Thiago Monteiro 11-5, 12-10, 11-7, 11-7 in the final. “I’m very happy that I came, “ said the Drinkhall, the British number one. “Of course it’s very nice to win, but the most important thing was to come and see the place, and I hope this will help me next year.”
That was as far as the disappointment for local players went, as Brazil won all three of the other events to impress a 700-strong crowd inside Riocentro Pavilion 4. Monteiro's defeat to Drinkhall was offset by victory alongside Eric Jouti and Cazuo Matsumoto in the men's team event, while Lin Gui won the women's singles final against Caroline Kumahara and the trio of Lin, Kumahara and Bruna Takahashi took gold in the women's team competition.
Monteiro was happy with the event's organisation, saying: “In relation to the three editions of the Games I have played in, this event left nothing to be desired. Of course, everything will be on a much larger scale next year, but from what I saw here, we don’t have anything to worry about.”
Next year's competition will in fact be be played in the adjacent Riocentro Pavilion 4, but the test event – which finished in November 21 – showcased some important innovations, including new table tennis tables and a 'Rio Look' green floor designed specially to lend a Brazilian feel to proceedings.
“It is very Brazilian and does not disturb the players during the games,” said Matsumoto of the new floor. "It is something that reflects our identity, something I have never seen before.”
Among those working at the event were 24 sport-specialist volunteers, and the Brazil women's team coach Hugo Hoyama said that their contribution was as important as those taking part in the tournament.
"As much as for the players, who are not accustomed to this level of support from volunteers that happens at events the size of the Olympics, the training the volunteers received was very important," he said. "I believe this was the most important test that was done."