Europe’s top badminton players are arriving in La Roche-sur-Yon in the Vendee region of France today knowing that for many of them will be drinking in the Last Chance Saloon.
But whether they are toasting success or drowning their sorrows may only come apparent next weekend when the 25th European Championships reaches a climax.
The action starts tomorrow in this final event of the gruelling year-long Olympic qualifying race and for some players the Race to Rio will go right down to the wire thanks to the complex nature of the qualifying process.
Norway’s Marius Myhre kept his Rio hopes alive with his recent Croatian International triumph and a big haul of ranking points at the Europeans is his target. He starts with a bye and will then face Scotland’s Kieran Merrilees if yesterday’s Victor Dutch International runner-up defeats Slovakia’s Jarolim Vicen in the first round tomorrow evening.
England’s Chloe Birch is not in contention for Rio but the youngster, who won the women’s doubles with Sophie Brown in Wateringen yesterday, has pride of place tomorrow morning when she and Chloe Magee are first on Court One. Magee is heading for her third Olympics for Ireland.
At the same time (11am) on Court 2 Austria’s David Obernosterer takes on Czech star Petr Koukal.
The first match of court three sees Blagovest Kisyov of Bulgaria confront Niks Podosinoviks with the winner earning the right to take on defending champion and top seed Jan Ø Jørgensen of Denmark on Wednesday.
France are hosting the Championships for the first time and their first player into action is Yaelle Hoyaux, who meets Austria’s Elisabeth Baldauf in the third match on Court 1.
Badminton fans will have to wait until Wednesday afternoon to see the first appearance of defending women’s singles champion and double World champion Carolina Marin. The Spanish superstar meets Akvile Stapusaityte of Lithuania in a second-round test after an opening bye.
One of the big Olympic qualification battles still to be resolved features the women’s doubles. Germany’s Carla Nelte and Johanna Goliszewski kept ahead of England’s top pair Heather Olver and Lauren Smith by beating them in the Peru final eight days ago.
The German pair are No. 4 seeds and it will need them to underachieve and the unseeded England pair to play at their absolute best for the final ranking points to swing in Olver and Smith’s favour.
Both pairs start their challenge on Wednesday evening. Olver and Smith start against Jenny Nyström and Mathilda Lindholm of Finland while Nelte and Goliszewski meet Slovenia’s Ana Marija Setina and Kaja Stankovic.
In men’s doubles the German pair of Michael Fuchs and Johannes Schöttler are in danger of missing out on the Olympics unless they can turn the tables on Poland’s Adam Cwalina and Przemyslaw Wacha.
The Poles are the 13th in the current Race to Rio list at No 27 in the world. The Germans are No. 30 and need to overturn a deficit of just over 1,100 ranking points.
Sxith seeds Cwalina and Wacha start against Scotland’s Patrick MacHugh and Martin Campbell on Wednesday night in the top half of the draw while seventh seeds Fuchs and Schöttler face French pair Bastian Kersaudy and Gaetan Mittelheisser.
One of the big attractions on day one will be the chance to see the top two seeds in the mixed doubles begin their challenge.
Top seeds Chris and Gabby Adcock, the World SuperSeries finals winners who are bidding to be the first husband and wife winners of the title, begin against Anton Kaisti and Mathilda Lindholm.
Second seeds and defending champions Joachim Fischer and Christinna Pedersen of Denmark face Pawel Pietryja and Aneta Wojtkowska of Poland.