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(Photo: Badminton Europe)
Popov makes history and Shapovalova is back!
Date: 11/7/2020 6:03 PM
Published by : Alan Raftery
There we have it, the 2020 European Junior Championships have come to a close, and our champions stood proudly atop the podiums with medals around their necks, giving a glimpse into the future of our sport. 

Moments like these will never be forgotten as they are printed in the history books forevermore. A tournament that stood strong and was able to adapt to the major restrictions in place around Europe. It was said before that the juniors deserved these championships to go ahead, and they have returned the favour with excellent cooperation and top-level performances on court. 

The two singles champions have been thoroughly impressive in their personal journey’s here in Lahti, Finland. 

Popov family with two European Junior champs
It was clear that Christo Popov was aiming for no other colour than gold in the men’s singles, securing a legacy of French singles in recent years. A proud moment came in 2017 for the Popov family when Toma Junior defeated his countryman, Arnaud Merkle to gold. A year later, Merkle had his moment against the young Christo in the final. A today it was Christo’s turn to be crowned king of Europe. 

Playing against countryman Yanis Gaudin, although favourite, it was not a given considering that grit and determination shown this week from the number seven seed. The two French stars, side by side interview gave each other a lot of respect. 

-I gave everything I had. I am a bit disappointed but he played better than me today, and congrats to him, Yanis said still catching his breath. 

Commenting on the title coming back to the Popov family, Christo Popov says. 

-I am very proud of my achievement as that was my goal for this year. Despite the cancellation of the World Junior Championships, I am very happy to finish my young career with a win. 

-It’s the third time we have an all-French final, I think we are both proud of that. He played very well in the second game and push me hard. He really deserves this silver medal and I also say congrats to him, Popov added while smiling at his Gaudin. 

Asked what was said during the embrace at the net, Popov explained. 

-I told him that he has shown to France and the rest of Europe that he has the level. 

Shapovalova’s tears of joy
Throughout the week, Shapovalova , who has made her return following a lengthy injury, expressed her delight of simply being back on court. 

-It is so cool, as I am already able to run over the whole court, and it is so nice. 

The unseeded Swede, Edith Urell, has also put in a strong run to the final. She also featured in the mixed doubles final for Sweden with Gustav Bjorkler. Commenting on if this has been a surprise for her, she answered. 

-I did not expect to come and play two finals, but I know that I have the level to do it. It is about daily form and I know that I can beat all these players, and I have done it now. 

In the group 2 Sweden vs Russia clash for the team event, Urell was victorious against Shapovalova in a tight two-game battle, 21-19, 21-19. It was another extremely tight match with the Swede taking the early initiative by winning the opening game 21-14. 

Shapovalova bounced back strongly in the second, however, had to fend off a considerable run of points from Urell. With a 21-18 score, the last match of the tournament went to a decider. The Swede capitalised on her momentum and took a good lead, but it was Shapovalova who managed to mount a comeback and take the game 22-20, clinching the gold. 

-I am very disappointed as I had a lead in the third game and I could not keep it. I think I lost my focus, Urell said, clearly upset. 

Despite this disappointment, not many people can boast two medals at the European Junior Championships.

-There have been many good things to take from this tournament. It is also difficult to play two categories. I think I played something like 12 matches, so I am really tired, Urell finished before making her way to the podium once again. 

There were many tears on court for Anastasiia Shapovalova. The tears continued as she walked towards the interview area. Taking a few moments to compose herself, she began to put words to this special victory. 

-It is really an amazing feeling because I was losing in the third game too much. I started to relax and enjoy the game and that’s it. 

The Russian was able to turn around her loss to Urell in the team event when it mattered most. 

-It was so hard. Urell plays really well and is a good technical player with good speed. It is so difficult to beat her, so it is a very good feeling, Shapovalova said with a giant smile. 

This tournament was really about getting Shapovalova back playing on court, but here she is having won the gold. 

-I am very proud to be representing Russia, and it is gold for Russia. I want to say thank you to everyone who supports me, and my coach. So thank you so much! Shapovalova said while bowing to the camera. 

To re-watch the action from the EJC20, visit badmintoneurope.tv

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