Baggaley: I want to be Olympic hero

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BEING England’s leading medal winner in the Commonwealth Games is no longer enough for city table tennis star Andrew Baggaley – he wants a shot at the Olympic title.

The 28-year-old increased his Commonwealth Games medal haul to five last year when he won team silver and doubles bronze in Delhi – making him England’s most decorated table tennis player of all time.

But nothing has the power to turn a relatively unknown local sporting hero into a nationally recognised household name.

“Winning a medal in London is my greatest ambition,” declared Baggaley, who scooped double Commonwealth Games gold in Manchester in 2002 and a silver in Melbourne in 2006.

“I dream about it – of course I do. Although I try not to really because I’m worried it could prove to be detrimental to put all my eggs in that basket and maybe take my eye off other things.”

Despite his impressive list of honours – including being triple English Men’s Singles National champion – the London Games will give Baggaley the chance to define his career on the world stage, and he believes he’ll be reaching his peak by the time July 2012 comes around.

“Between the age of 29 and 31 are the best years for table tennis players,” said Baggaley, who saw his profile level go up a few notches when he became the table tennis motion capture actor for the XBox 360 game Kinect Sports earlier this year.

“I just need to play lots of pro tours and keep playing the best players in the world in the next few months to keep me on track for playing my best in London.

“I really can’t think of anything better than representing Great Britain at the Olympic Games in our own capital city and being cheered on by home fans.”

Only injury or illness will stop Baggaley from being selected in the three-man GB team that will take to the ExCeL London arena next summer. But he has a busy few months ahead of him before then, including the China Open in August and finding a new club to provide him with his ‘bread and butter’ competition.

He recently left French League side Nice and doesn’t yet know which corner of Europe he’ll end up in next. But wherever that is, Baggaley says he’ll be counting down the days until the opening ceremony in London – currently standing at 386 to go.