Worksop's Sam Walker misses out on Tokyo spot
Sam Walker was pleased to get matches under his belt despite missing out on a place at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Worksop athlete was handed an unexpected chance to compete at the European qualifying tournament when top English player Liam Pitchford decided to miss the competition.
World No 15 Pitchford will qualify for Tokyo by virtue of his world ranking and elected to stay in a high-class training group in Germany, meaning Walker took his place at the qualifiers in Portugal.
Having just recovered from an ankle injury sustained in his first tournament back on the world stage in early March, Walker had only been able to train for a few days beforehand.
Currently ranked No 96, he started with a 4-1 defeat to Eric Glod of Luxembourg but recovered to get though the group stage with two subsequent wins - 4-2 over world No 104 Florent Lambiet of Belgium and 4-1 over Alex Naumi of Finland, ranked 265.
In the first knockout round, he was beaten 4-0 by Rares Sipos of Romania.
There was one more chance for Walker to qualify for Tokyo via a second stage of knockouts, but he went down 4-1 to Mihai Bobocica of Italy.
Walker, 25, said: “I didn’t really know what to expect because I hadn’t played properly in a tournament for over a year and literally just came back from an injury.
“In terms of my performance at the table, it was inconsistent.
“But it’s good for me to see where I am at in my game after such a long time away and to move forward and put the work in to get better.
“Obviously, getting the five matches was good for me and to a certain extent after coming back from injury, that’s probably better than being in training.”
Walker should be involved in World and European championships later this year, but his thoughts are also on the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
He said: “There’s a few things coming up. The Commonwealth Games was my next goal anyway. I wasn’t really thinking about the Olympics because I thought my chance had already gone.”