EUROPEAN CHAMPS 2016 – Axelsen ends jinx

In an amazing atmosphere and a packed Vendespace Stadium in France, Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen finally put an end to his long run of finals without successes when he scooped a […]

In an amazing atmosphere and a packed Vendespace Stadium in France, Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen finally put an end to his long run of finals without successes when he scooped a well deserved European Championship title against his elder compatriot Jorgensen. Marin won her second title.

By Raphael Sachetat, live in Mouilleron le Captif. Photos: Yohan Nonotte / Badmintonphoto (live)

What a week it’s been in Mouilleron Le Captif!  It’s an improbable name for a small village in France’s western region, known for its oysters and long, empty and windy beaches.  The French organizers had put “Les petits plats dans les grands” – as the local saying goes – for a beautiful set up and far more space than their usual badminton garden in the Coubertin Stadium in Paris.

For 6 days of competition, the Vendespace Arena was home to close to 18 000 spectators – a record for the competition in Europe – and French fans almost got to see their home favourites scoop a medal when the mixed duo of Audrey Fontaine and Gaetan Mittelheisser were only 2 points away from reaching a quarter-final where were already waiting their compatriots Léa Palermo and Bastian Kersaudy. But it wasn’t meant to be and neither mixed pair, nor Brice Leverdez, nor the men’s  duo of Carême/Labar were able to go through to the semi-finals.  All were stopped in the quarters, ending their dream for a medal on their home turf.

Things had almost started like a dream for the local players, with one of the biggest upsets under way when in form Lucas Claerbout took Viktor Axelsen to 20-20 in the decider. But the second-seeded Dane had other ideas in mind that day. He was there to conquer a title he’d been eyeing for a while.

Axelsen did so on Sunday, clinching perhaps his biggest title since his crown in the World Juniors back in 2010.  Viktor Axelsen had played in many finals of Superseries events – including one in France – but had always been beaten at that stage and previous to this, his biggest senior title came at the Grand Prix Gold in Switzerland. What he showed in Vendée proved he was finally ready to break the jinx and sit on top of Europe after a convincing 21-11, 21-16 win over his compatriot Jan Jorgensen.

“Playing against Jan is always tricky but I’m happy with the way I managed the pressure today,” said Axelsen.   “It’s a big thing for me to win the so I’m really happy and I want to enjoy it.”

In that same draw, there were a lot of emotions earlier in the week when secured his spot to the Rio Olympics by advancing to the third round, while his dad was on the coach’s chair. On the other hand, his compatriot Ludik was sent out of the qualifying list, as was Ville Lang, who still remains with a slight chance as he is standing at the 2nd reserved spot.

Carolina makes mother proud

Not often does Carolina Marin’s mom make a trip to see her daughter play, but she did in Vendée and she could enjoy the world class badminton Carolina showed this past week.  There was an early scare in the semi-final when she had to call for a physiotherapist after she pulled a muscle in her arm, but things were back to normal after she beat Line Kjaersfeldt from Denmark.

In the final, Carolina and Kirsty Gilmour – both Ambassadors for the France-based charity Solibad, which had a presence outside the hall all week – played an intense second game but the Spaniard came out on top with a 21-12, 21-18 victory. Both players seemed as happy on the podium.  Gilmour was celebrating Scotland’s first ever medal in the competition.

For Carolina Marin, this victory felt even sweeter with her mom in the stands: “Today I want to dedicate this medal to my mom, who was here today.  It is so important to have your family behind you when you are on court,” she said.

The women’s  event saw some other drama as well this week. Karin Schnaase booked her ticket for Rio when her compatriot Olga Konon was stopped early in the draw and her quarter-final berth meant a direct ticket to Brazil. She was also very lucky to face an amazing opponent in her second round match: the German player broke a shoe and had no replacement pair with her, which could have meant that she would have to retire from the game, but her opponent, Hungary’s Laura Sarosi, reached into her bag and offered her spare shoes to Schnaase – a great spirit which is even more incredible when one realizes that Sarosi would have had enough points to qualify for Rio had the German retired from that match. Ethics before own interest…

A petition has even been started online so that the Hungarian could compete in Rio and be given a wild card…Estonia’s Kati Tolmoff and Finland’s Nanna Vaino also showed some great emotions when their victories in Mouilleron kept their Olympic dreams alive.

End of Olympic dream for Sozonov?

There was some drama in the men’s doubles event as well. Russia’s Sozonov and Ivanov were playing to keep their European title and possibly scoop a seeding spot in Rio, but Ivan Sozonov badly injured himself at the end of the deciding game in the semi-final against Denmark’s Astrup/Rasmussen. The Russian was later diagnosed with a rupture of the Achilles tendon, which makes it exceedingly doubtful that he will recover in time to participate in the Rio Olympics.  It could prove to be a shattered dream for the recent All England winners.

Denmark scooped both gold and silver in the event, with Mads Conrad Pedersen and Mads Pieler Kolding edging their compatriots in the final.  Meanwhile, Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen enjoyed a hat trick with their third title in a row in this competition.  They beat Selena Piek and Eefje Muskens in the women’s doubles final.

But the Dutch supporters can be quite happy about their silver medal.  Together with two other bronze medals, from Barning/Tabeling in women’s doubles and Piek/Arends in mixed, the Netherlands scooped 3 medals altogether – their first since Mia Audina’s success in 2004.

Christinna Pedersen was the big winner of the 2016 edition as she goes home with 2 gold medals, once again. Together with her partner Joachim Fischer-Nielsen, they beat their compatriots Niclas Nohr and Sara Thygesen in three intense games in the mixed final.

Final results and medallists
XD:  Joachim Fischer-Nielsen / Christinna Pedersen (DEN) [2]  beat Niclas Nohr / Sara Thygesen (DEN) [8]  19-21, 21-13, 21-17
Bronze medallists: Jacco Arends/ Selena Piek (NED), Mathias Christiansen / Lena Grebak (DEN)

WS:  Carolina Marin (ESP) [1]  beat Kirsty Gilmour (SCO) [2]  21-12, 21-18
Bronze medallists: Anna Thea Madsen (DEN), Line Kjaersfeldt (DEN)

MS:  Viktor Axelsen (DEN) [2] beat Jan Jorgensen (DEN) [1]  21-11, 21-16
Bronze medallists: Marc Zwiebler (GER), Rajiv Ouseph (ENG)

WD:  Christinna Pedersen/ Kamilla Rytter-Juhl (DEN) [1]  beat Muskens/ Selena Piek (NED) [2] 21-18, 21-17
Bronze medallists: Maiken Fruergaard/ Sara Thygesen (DEN), Iris Tabeling / Samantha Barning (NED)

MD:  Mads Conrad Petersen / Mads Pieler Kolding (DEN) [2] beat Kim Astrup / Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (DEN) [4] 14-21, 21-18, 21-13
Bronze medallists: Vladimir Ivanov / Ivan Sozonov (RUS), Marcus Ellis / Chris Langridge (ENG)

Click here for complete results




Raphaël Sachetat

About Raphaël Sachetat

Raphael is the Chief Editor of Badzine International. He is the founder of the website together with Jean François Chauveau. After many years writing for the BWF and many publications around the world about badminton, he now leads a team of young and dynamic writers for Badzine.