Sam Walker will step up to the top level of world table tennis next month, as part of England’s World Team Championship squad.
The 20-year-old Worksop man will join Paul Drinkhall, Liam Pitchford and Andrew Baggaley in the Championship Division at the tournament, played in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
It will be the first time since 1997 that England have featured in the top division, and Walker was part of the squad which earned promotion two years ago in Tokyo.
England are ranked 18th for the tournament and have been drawn against second seeds Germany in Group B, along with Sweden (seeded eighth), France (ninth), Denmark (16th) and the 24th-ranked host nation.
The tournament takes place from 28th February to 6th March.
“Obviously it’s great to be in the squad and to be able to compete for England again and hopefully continue the form from the World last time, when we went up,” said Walker.
“We’ve had two years to prepare for this and hopefully we can kick on now.
“The group is tough, but every group is going to be tough in the first division.
“If we all play well at the right times, I think we’ve got every chance to make the top two in the group and progress to the higher positions.”
Walker concedes that the odds will be against England at times, but he says belief in the camp is high.
“We’re a little bit the underdogs, but that could work in our favour. I’d definitely rather have Germany than (top seeds) China in the group, but we don’t need to be afraid of anyone. We can be confident in our ability and believe in each other and let the other teams be afraid of us.”
Looking ahead to 2016, an Olympic year, Walker has set his sights on a rise up the world rankings, and a seat on the plane to Rio.
The former Valley student, currently ranked at a career high number 165, said: “My goal is to improve my world ranking and get into the top 100 by the end of the season.
“It’s not an easy task but it’s not impossible.
“I’m also aiming to be selected for the Olympic qualifying event in Istanbul in April.”