Table tennis ace Sam Walker in line for two top awards

STELLAR YEAR -- for Worksop table tennis ace Sam Walker.
STELLAR YEAR -- for Worksop table tennis ace Sam Walker.
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Olympic table tennis ace Sam Walker, of Worksop, has been shortlisted for two more international awards to cap a memorable year.

The 21-year-old Walker reached the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro for Team GB during the summer after landing a bronze medal at the World Team Championships in March.

Now he has been nominated for the Breakthrough Star Award, alongside England Leopards teammates Paul Drinkhall and Liam Pitchford, and also the Star Point of the Year award. Both are overseen by the International Table Tennis Federation.

The breakthrough award relates to the impact Walker has made during a stellar 2016. The bronze he achieved with Drinkhall and Pitchford at the worlds in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia represented the first medal England had won at that level since 1983, and the first time a newly-promoted team had earned a podium place at the event.

Three months later, he was called up to the Team GB table tennis squad for Rio and featured in the team competition, where Britain secured a 3-2 victory over France in the first round, only to be knocked out by mighty China in the quarters.

Up against Walker, Drinkhall and Pitchford for the breakthrough award are Japanese duo Tomokazu Harimoto, who became the number one U18 player in the world at the age of 12, and 16-year-old Miu Hirano, who became the sport’s youngest ever winner of the Women’s World Cup.

England coach Alan Cooke has also been nominated for the star coach category, with all the winners to be decided by an expert panel of judges.

The star point accolade relates to an amazing 27-shot rally that Walker won on his way to victory against world number 20, Yuya Oshima, in the World Team Championships semi-finals against Japan.

He is up against four other wonderful rallies in an award that will be decided by public vote, which closes this coming Sunday. If you would like to cast your vote for Walker, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/16StarAwardsVoting. At the same time, you will also be asked to cast your votes for male and female players of the year. The suggestion from British table tennis experts is to plump for Olympic champions Ma Long and Ding Ning, unless you have some other inside knowledge!

The results of both the breakthrough award and the star point award will be revealed at an International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) presentation ceremony, to be held in Qatar on Thursday, December 8.

Meanwhile Walker, who burst on to the table tennis scene when winning a silver medal for the England team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, continues to impress and progress in both domestic and international tournaments. He is up to a career-high of 111 in the latest world rankings, drawn up by the ITTF.