The European Junior Championships concluded this afternoon in Mulhouse with home grown hero Toma Junior Popov emerging as the outstanding player of the tournament bagging not only a gold medal in the team event but double gold in the individual lifting the men’s singles as well as the men’s doubles alongside Thom Gicquel.
Popov got the ball rolling for France taking the men’s singles title over compatriot and home Mulhouse player Arnaud Merkle. Popov had been the outstanding player throughout the tournament and continued that trend in today’s men’s singles final. First game nerves stifled Merkle as Popov cruised unchallenged winning the opener 21-14.
Merkle did bounce back making a strong contest of the second game but it was Popov that always looked more in control leading 11-10 at the interval. Popov emerged from the interval break and immediately increased the pace which Merkle was not able to live with. A run of 6 unanswered points saw the top seed put the match virtually to bed to lead 19-12 and claimed the title with 21-15 win.
“You know today I felt really comfortable and in control. I had a good feeling throughout and just could feel that today was to be my day. To win is almost a miracle as there have been so many good players here trying to beat me. Now I am ready to move onto senior and I look forward to playing the European Championships in two weeks in Denmark”
Popov added the men’s doubles title to his singles and like his men’s singles the result never really looked in doubt after the French pair took the opening set 21-17 against Hemming & Flynn of England.
Winning the match in two games the French took the title without dropping a set and Popov became the first non-Danish male player to win a European junior team gold as well as the men’s singles and doubles. Popov joins Peter Gade, Jim Laugesen and Thomas Stuer-Lauridsen as the only men to ever complete the treble.
Karlsson & Magnusson storm their way to women’s doubles glory
Coming into today’s women’s doubles final Emma Karlsson and Johanna Magnusson (pictured above) were underdogs to the power of Denmark’s Boje & Jakobsen. However junior tournaments have a habit of throwing up some surprises and it was the Swedes who dominated the match rendering the Danes completely ineffective. Johanna Magnusson in particular was the outstanding player and Swede’s inflicted a heavy defeat on the Danes in two games 21-14 21-14.
There was something to cheer about for Jakobsen and she did lift the women’s singles title beating Maryna Ilyinskaya in the final to add the gold to the silver she won in 2015. Jakobsen was the outstanding women’s singles player this week in an otherwise disappointing campaign from a Danish perspective who are very much used to winning more than one gold at European junior level.
“This championship was my goal this year. My memory is fresh from two years ago winning silver and that was just not an option this time around. Now that I have the winners medal I can relax a bit and enjoy it”
Russians get expected mixed title
Rodion Alimov and Alina Davletova (pictured above with MX medallists) were the big favourites coming into today’s mixed doubles final. The Russians have already won this year on the senior circuit taking the Estonian International back in January and with the demise of Delrue and Gicquel early in the campaign it was unlikely that the rest of Europe would challenge.
That being said today’s opponents Dunn an O’Donnell of Scotland had the tournament of their lives and match the Russians in patches today but in the end Alimov and Davletova were just too strong. The Russians took the opening game 21-16 and claimed the title with a 21-14 win in the second to lift the title as best European junior mixed doubles pair without dropping a set.
In the end four countries shared the five gold medal with a total of 11 countries winning medals in the individual competition in Mulhouse. Things are looking strong for Europe going forward!
For all results from today’s finals at #EJC17 in Mulhouse click HERE
Article by Mark Phelan, Images by Mark & Ben Phelan for Badminton Europe