Knight hits out after Olympic heartache

Kingston Guardian: Hitting out: Darius Knight is upset at missing out on a home Olympics Hitting out: Darius Knight is upset at missing out on a home Olympics

Darius Knight has hit out after suffering the heartbreak of missing out on a place at a home Olympic Games this summer.

On Tuesday, The British table tennis association named Paul Drinkhall as the man to take the only male home nation individual place at the London Games, with Drinkhall, Andrew Baggaley and Liam Pitchford nominated for the team event - with Knight, who moved to Austria last year to improve his Olympic chances, a reserve.

It means he will train with the team and practice with them in the lead up to their competition but will not actually take part unless one of the top three gets injured.

Knight is ranked number three in England and won both senior men’s doubles and mixed doubles titles at the English Championships in March, where he also reached the singles semi-finals, and was one of only two English players to make it to the last 32 of the European Championships in October.

But, despite his form at the turn of the year, he was left out of the four-man team that went to the World Team Table Tennis Championship in March and was not among the players sent to the final Olympic qualification events in Doha and Luxembourg earlier this month selected by coach Jia Yi Liu.

"Since I've been in Austria I've been treated as a outcast," said Knight, who has featured heavily in Olympic themed Coca Cola adverts in the past year.

"My team-mates have been in Germany or Italy, leaving me no option but to head to Austria for better practice with established international players, but, because of this, I've been ostracised.

"It's been quite tough and I have not been treated very fairly.

"I have been sitting on the bench when I was in good form and ranked number two at the competition among a group of four players but treated as a number four.

"In one match the coach wrote down the wrong name on the team sheet, I got up to play as expected but the coach had made an error and robbed me of my chance to gain crucial ranking points.

"This has never happened to me in my career but for it to happen at such a crucial time when selection was still being finalised left me with a bitter taste and begs the question how can an error of that magnitude be made in professional sport in the European Championships?

"I was the only player by right to qualify for the pro tour finals in London in November but prior to them I was banned from the training hall for two weeks for talking during warm up - everyone talks during warm up.

"How are you supposed to perform to your highest standard if you haven't trained for two weeks - yet again I feel the decision was personal.

"My results and overall performance up to the three big events leading up to selection were arguably top two, definitely top four.

"No one qualified for the pro tour finals except me which measures consistency over the season and I was one of two British players to reach the last 32 of the Europeans.

"But, since then, I have had no opportunities to carry on progressing.

"The coach's constant negative attitude towards me is no help in my quest to succeed and has stopped my progress.

"If something isn't right I will speak my mind, I am not doing it to argue I am just trying to fight for what's right.

"I am 22 and I'm the one that holds the bat in the match and I have to practice in the way that is best for me - I know what I need to do to prepare right."

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