TUC EUROPE STAGE

After a hectic week in Almere, Holland it was the men and women from Denmark who were crowned kings and queens of European Badminton with wins over England and the […]

ImageAfter a hectic week in Almere, Holland it was the men and women from Denmark who were crowned kings and queens of European Badminton with wins over England and the home nation The Netherlands in their respective finals. The Danish men were always overwhelming favourites to win the title but the women from Denmark surprised many by claiming the unprecedented double for Europe’s Badminton Super Power.

By Mark Phelan, Badzine correspondent. Photos : Sven Heise, Badmintonphoto

The European men’s and women’s team championship has its own unique badminton bonus as the top three teams in each event gain automatic qualification to the final stages of the Thomas & Uber Cup to be held in Jakarta in May of this year. A fourth one may be sent to Indonesia if its global ranking is higher than the 4th best Asian Uber Cup team according to the Feb 27th list.

ImageDenmark’s men stronger than ever?

The tag of tournament favourites has always rested well on the shoulders of the Danish men’s team and this year it was to be no different. The Danish team cruised through the open round robin qualifying games with easy wins over Israel (5-0) and Scotland (4-1) to top their group heading into the knockout phase. Their path to the quarter finals was all the more remarkable given that they achieved it without Kenneth Jonassen, Peter Gade, Jens Eirksen and Martin Lundgaard. Strength in depth is something that the Danes have every right to boast about as players such as Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, Joachim Persson and Jan O Joergensen were instrumental in the team’s effortless path to the knock out stages. In all the Danes only dropped one match in their two opening qualifying games.

The quarter finals saw the introduction of the Danish big guns and their match against near neighbours Sweden proved to be no more of a challenge than any of the qualifying games the previous three days. Although Kenneth Jonassen was taken to three sets by Magnus Sahlberg both Peter Gade (photo) and the 1st men’s doubles pairing of Boe and Fischer wrapped up the match with two games still remaining and set up a mouth watering fixture against Germany in the semi final. The Germans were in confident form after cruising through their group with out dropping a match and dispensed of Wales in the Quarter final again without dropping a match. Kenneth Jonassen opened the semi final encounter by brushing aside Bjoern Joppien but the next match saw the Danes stumble when Martin Lundgard and Jens Eriksen were beaten 21-19 21-13 by the inform German pairing of Fuchs and Spitko. 

Peter Gade had to fight tooth and nail against the resurgent Marc Zwiebler as the German has been riding the crest of the EBU wave at the moment after wins at the Norwegian, Welsh, Hellas and Swedish Internationals. Gade summoned on all his experience to shut out the match in 3 sets 21-12 15-21 21-16. The second men’s doubles and fourth match in the tie again proved to be difficult for the all dominant Danes but again experience counted as Boe and Fischer toppled Hopp & Schoettler 21-17 19-21 21-9 to take the tie and advance to the final as the rankings suggested. 

ImageThe final saw Denmark pitted against an improving English team who in turn had cruised through their group by only dropping one match and beat Russia and Poland in the quarter and semi final by identical 3-0 score line. The opening men’s singles saw Kenneth Jonassen brush aside an out of form Andrew Smith 21-7 21-13. The first men’s doubles saw the combination of Eriksen and Lundgaard come up against the reliable and experienced partnership of Anthony Clarke and Robert Blair (photo) who were winding back the clock to play for their country.

The English took the opener 21-13 but the Danes fought back to take a tight second set 21-19 and ran out winners with a 21-14 win in the final set. At 2-0 up in the final of the European Team Championships it was now down to Peter Gade to try and wrap up the gold medal for Denmark. He duly delivered with a 21-10 21-17 over Rajiv Ouseph and in doing so reiterated to the rest of Europe that Danish men’s badminton is still the yard stick to which all others are measured.

Germany secured third spot and their place at the Thomas Cup Finals with a 3-1 win over Poland.

Hans-Kristian Vittinghus said of his performance that “Obviously it’s a great feeling to be crowned European champions; it’s not something you experience every day! But I must admit for me, it was not winning the title that meant the most, but more the fact that I got my first senior cap. That really makes me feel proud! “

ImageTine leads Danish charge

Unlike their male counterparts the Danish women did not go into these championships as favourites as that tag rested on the shoulders of the German or Dutch teams. The Danish ladies had other ideas however and the ease at which they steam rolled through their qualifying group set off the warning bells as all the main contenders realised that this Danish team must not be written off.

The quarter-final saw the Danish ladies face off against a strong Russian team but the match was over in three games as Tine Rasmussen beat Ella Diehl 21-12 21-9 to continue her recent good form, Camilla Soerensen and the combination of Juhl and Roepke sealed the Russians faith in winning the second ladies’ singles and the 1st ladies’ doubles.

The semi-final saw the Danish girls take on the number 1 seeds Germany, who themselves had breezed through the competition only loosing one game on their way to their semi final berth. The opening ladies’ singles was always going to be tense between Schenk and Rasmussen, but the world number 9 and recent Malaysian Super Series winner, called on all her experience and reserves to take the game 21-15 15-21 17-21. The Germans, who couldn’t bank on their best player Xu Huaiwen, ill, hit back with Carina Mette and Birgit Overzier taking the 1st ladies’ doubles with an easy win over Frier and Pedersen 21-19 21-15. The match was now evenly balanced at 1-1 but when Camilla Soerensen dispensed of Janet Koelher 21-12 21-12 the Danish intent was etched firmly into the minds of their German opposition. Kamilla Juhl and Marie Roepke finished the job in style by wining the second ladies’ doubles 21-17 21-16 and therefore completing the dream double for Danish badminton with a gold in the Men’s and Women’s competition. The Netherlands secured third spot with a 3-1 win over Scotland to claim their place in the Uber Cup Finals in Jakarta in May.

In commenting on their win Lena Friar explained that “preparation for the tournament had been very good. We met the weekends preceding the tournament and did extra training and analysis of our opponents. We got together as a team and fought as a team. It was an amazing experience and we all gave each other confidence on court which made us strong. I am very proud of this achievement

Xu Huaiwen, who still played in the third match for the qualification spot, had remained confident throughout the event. “I knew we had a chance for the qualification from the start, but with the fact that I was ill, Petra was just coming back and Nicole out for injury, I guess this result is ok” said the Chinese born German. “Now, we’ll see what we can do in Jakarta, all depends on NIcole and Petra’s form” added Xu.

All results HERE

About Mark Phelan