The Edinburgh PE teacher was part of the Scotland men’s team which won an unexpected bronze at the Commonwealth Championships in Delhi last year but believes that Glasgow 2014 will be a whole new ball game. The Scots start their campaign against Uganda at lunchtime today at Scotstoun and also face Canada and Tanzania in their group.
“It was a fantastic achievement for us to win bronze in Delhi but we’re still well aware of how far we have to go to emulate that at the Games,” he added. “There were a couple of big players missing from teams in India. It was always going to be hard because everyone ups their game for a Commonwealth Games but we believe we have a chance of challenging for medals.”
Howieson is also competing in the individual events in a three-pronged medal assault. He reached the last 32 of the men’s singles in the at the last Commonwealth Games in Delhi four years ago and went a round further in the doubles with Gavin Rumgay.
Scotland’s women’s team have a tough opener against Australia today and also have Guyana in their opening group.
Lynda Flaws, who grew up in Shetland, has experience of multi-sports events, having competed in the Island Games on four occasions. That involvement started when Shetland hosted the event in 2005 when she won three medals and she has also been to Rhodes, Aland (Finland) and the Isle of Wight, where she has added another two silver medals.
She knows the Commonwealth Games is a massive step up and added: “I know the Glasgow people will embrace it and there was a taste of how they will support us with how people got behind the Olympics in London.
“Being in Scotland, it will be even more special. I managed to get tickets for the women’s Olympic final and bronze medal match and that was a great experience. The Chinese were unbelievable but the whole buzz about London is hard to describe. If Glasgow could emulate that, even a little, it would be brilliant.”
Meanwhile, British No 1 Paul Drinkhall is hoping “home” support in Glasgow will help English table tennis stars reach new heights.
The Middlesbrough-born 24-year-old claimed silver in the men’s team event and bronze in the mixed doubles in Delhi four years ago despite a lack of vocal backing from the crowd, but has high expectations in front of a British audience.
“I’ve got my mum, dad, brother and sister and then a couple of the other team members have got family coming up,” he said. “Hopefully we can turn some of the Scottish heads and get them on our side as well, but we’ll have to wait and see. In Delhi we didn’t have any support apart from a couple of parents, but we managed to get silver and bronze there. With home support we can build on that and hopefully come away with a gold medal.”
Drinkhall, whose wife Jo is also part of England’s Games squad, added: “I think the table tennis team are in great shape. We got promotion at the World Championships just over a month ago. I won the Spanish Open in April and Liam [Pitchford] has climbed up the world rankings quite a lot in the last year. Everyone has been in great form – I think the women are looking quite good at the moment as well – so we’re all going to be pushing for medals and hopefully we’ll come out happy.”
England’s most decorated player, Andrew Baggaley, feels the team’s preparation has gone to plan and everything is on track for a good showing.
Baggaley, who won two golds and a silver at the 2002 Games in Manchester, and silver and bronze in Delhi, said: “We’ve got the men’s team first and need to be right up for the matches and, as always, we’re looking to win a medal. “It’s just fine-tuning now, it’s not too much practice, just little bits to keep sharp. I feel sharp and I think we all do – we just need to feel confident. We had a warm-up match against Australia just before coming out here, which we won, so that was good for the confidence. The key is not to over-train now, practise a bit and keep fresh so we can go for it.”