THE region's reputation as a table tennis powerhouse looks to be in safe hands after the success of a North-East teenager on the national and international stage.

Paul Drinkhall, from Loftus, has been at the forefront of the sport, winning World Cup events and a Commonwealth Games gold medal in recent years.

Now Darlington's Thomas Rayner, 15, has highlighted his considerable potential by winning the consolation event at the International Table Tennis Federation’s Spanish Junior and Cadet Open earlier this month.

But the Longfield Academy pupil wasn’t finished there as he claimed the biggest success of his young career when he became Cadet Boys champion at the PG Mutual Cadet and Junior National Championships, which were held last weekend.

The victory, which saw him beat off competition from the best competitors in his age group in the country, marks him out as one of the most exciting table tennis prospects in Britain.

Thomas said: “I’m really happy because all the effort and training I’ve done has paid off – all the stuff I’m doing, all the hours I’m doing, is worth it. I’ll keep working hard.

“I wanted to play my game, to get in first and move my opponent around, and also to keep my head and if I went behind, to reset.

“Playing internationally is definitely a big factor in the way things are going, plus really grafting in training.”

Thomas started the National Championships as the number four seed, and impressed in his opening matches as he set up a semi-final against the second seed, Louis Price.

He won that 4-2, and posted a repeat success in the final to see off top seed, Shayan Siraj, and claim the National title.

Thomas won the opening two games, and while his opponent hit back to reduce his lead, he won a tight fifth game 11-9. Shayan clawed another game back to make it 3-2, but Thomas won the sixth game 11-7 to claim an unassailable lead.

A member of Ormseby Table Tennis Club, he joined up with his club mate, Ben Piggott, to reach the boys’ doubles final.

The pair battled gamely against top seeds Naphong Boonyaprapa and Rhys Davies, but eventually slipped to a 3-2 defeat.