altBRITAIN'S young table tennis players, controversially overlooked for funding for London 2012, are the only one's capable of threatening Asia's domination at the sport, it has been claimed.

Steen Hansen, the performance director for the English Table Tennis Association (ETTA), made the claim after the successful performances at the World Junior Championships in Madrid earlier this month.


In the singles, 2012 hopeful Paul Drinkhall won the silver medal while doubles partner Darius Knight made the last 16 of the competition and 15-year-old Gavin Evans the last 32.


The squad, which also included Liam Pitchford, finished third in the team event.


Hansen said: “This was a fantastic performance and again we proved that we are the only nation in Europe on the boys side who can compete with Asia.


“It was another high profile opportunity for the likes of Paul and Darius to show that they are rapidly becoming key faces of the sport in the build-up to London’s 2012 Olympic Games and for Gavin to make the last 32 at only 15-years-old is a real achievement.”


Table tennis made its Olympic debut at Seoul in 1988 and, since then, out of the 68 medals awarded 57 have gone to competitors from Asian countries, including 33 to China alone.


At the Beijing Olympics earlier this year 11 of the 12 medals were won by players from Asian countries, including eight for China, four of which were gold.


The only one they failed to take was the silver in the men's team, which was won by Germany.


Table tennis was one of eight sports or disciplines controversially overlooked by UK Sport earlier this month when it distributed £292 million worth of funding into Olympic and Paralympic sport for the build-up to London.


It must now wait until the end of next month to discover if how much, if anything, it will receive so it can maintain its current high-performance centre at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) in Sheffield, who celebrated the youngster's successes with a presentation (pictured).


The centre has produced some outstanding results.


Paul Hudson, general manager of EIS Sheffield, said: “The EIS Sheffield table tennis centre continues to go from strength to strength and the sport is fast becoming internationally recognised for what it has achieved at the venue.


"Steen and the rest of the team have developed a remarkable group of players, by investing in youngsters from the bottom up to create a 2012 legacy.”


A sign of the development opportunities the sport offers was demonstrated when its grass-roots initiatives were recently awarded £9.3 million by Sport England to help table tennis' grow, particularly in the inner-cities.