VIKTOR AXELSEN (main picture) is the new European men’s singles champion.
The bronze medallist at the 2012 and 2014 championships came out on top this afternoon with a dominant performance against Danish team-mate and defending champion Jan O Jorgensen on finals day of this 25th edition of the Europeans but the first in France at La Roche sur Yon.
The 22-year-old led all the way in the first game and took charge of the second after recovering from 5-2 down to lead 9-5 then never looked back after that.
He said: “I am really, really happy because after the first round I had one leg out of the tournament. (In the end he overcame French wild card Lucas Claerbout in their second-round contest 23-21 16-21 22-20 in a 65-minute duel).
Of today’s final triumph he said: “I am really happy with the way I managed to cope with the pressure. If I had to play at this level just once in a tournament I am pretty happy that I did it today. It’s a big thing for me to win the European Championships.”
Another 22-year-old took the women’s singles title as defending champion and double World champion Carolina Marin of Spain denied Kirsty Gilmour Scotland’s first ever gold medal.
Gilmour, the Commonwealth Games silver medallist, struggled to contain Marin early on –“she always starts at a million miles an hour” – but the Glasgow star, who will lead the home challenge at next year’s TOTAL BWF World Championships in August 2017, wasn’t going to go down quietly. She recovered to lead 11-9 at the second game interval only for Marin to hit her with a five-point surge to move away for victory after 43 minutes.
The red strapping on her left shoulder was obviously a precaution after yesterday’s semi-final concerns over it but it didn’t hinder her today in the only final where Denmark weren’t featured.
But Gilmour at least had the satisfaction of winning Scotland’s first ever European silver medal.
Marin said: “Today is mother’s day and my mum is here so I just want to dedicate the medal to her. It’s so important to have family behind you.
“It was a tough match but I knew if I played faster I could control the game. The second set she came back stronger but after the break I kept my mind relaxed.”
But it wasn’t just a day for the youngsters. Joachim Fischer gave Denmark their first gold of four when the 37-year-old and 29-year-old mixed doubles partner Christinna Pedersen ground out a successful defence of their title when the top seeds came from behind to beat the No. 8 seeds and team-mates Niclas Nohr and Sara Thygesen.
The defending champions were forced to contest the longest match of Championship week before they finally got the better of Nohr and Thygesen after 78 minutes.
The younger Danes took the first game 21-19 and another excitable crowd started to imagine an upset when they led 6-3 in the second before Fischer and Pedersen started to get their game going by surging from 8-7 to 18-7 on the way to squaring the match.
In the decider the underdogs were again back in charge at 10-5 but once Fischer and Pedersen were level at 10-10 you sensed the tide was finally turning.
And a jubilant Fischer warned the youngsters coming through: “There are a few more years left in us yet,” certainly mindful that the next Europeans will be in the Danish city of Kolding from April 25-30 next year.
Pedersen hadn’t too much time to celebrate as she was back on court for the women’s doubles an hour later with 32-year-old Kamilla Rytter Juhl to take on Selena Piek and Eefje Muskens, the Dutch bronze medallists behind the defending champions two years ago in Kazan.
Juhl was chasing her fourth women’s doubles title and her third with Pedersen to go with her two mixed doubles successes. Pedersen was looking to add another women’s doubles gold to her second mixed doubles win.
And after 48 minutes the Danes came out on top to ensure they would finish the day with four gold medals. Juhl and Pedersen won 21-18 21-17 in 48 minutes.
The Dutch pair had their chances in the first when they led 18-15 before being reined in. In the second game the Danes trailed at 8-6but turned that into an 11-8 lead at the interval and stayed in front until the finish line.
All that remained was for Denmark to settle the battle for gold and silver in the men’s doubles when second seeds Mads Kolding and Mads Conrad faced fourth seeds and team-mates Kim Astrup and Andres Skaarup. It was Kolding and Conrad who came from behind to win 14-21 21-18 21-13, finshing the Championships with the second longest match at 71 minutes.
Men’s singles: (2) Viktor Axelsen (Den) bt (1) Jan O Jorgensen (Den) 21-11 21-16 (38mins)
Women’s singles: (1) Carolina Marin (Esp) bt (2) Kirsty Gilmour (Sco) 21-12 21-18 (43mins)
Men’s doubles: (2) Mads Conrad & Mads Kolding (Den) bt (4) Kim Astrup & Anders Skaarup (Den) 14-21 21-18 21-13 (71 mins)
Women’s doubles: (1) Christinna Pedersen & Kamilla Rytter Juhl (Den) bt (2) Eefje Muskens & Selena Piek (Ned) 21-18 21-17 (48 mins)
Mixed doubles: (1) Joachim Fischer & Christinna Pedersen (Den) bt (8) Niclas Nohr & Sara Thygesen 19-21 21-13 21-17 (78mins)
Gold: (2) Viktor Axelsen (Den)
Silver: (1) Jan O Jorgensen (Den)
Bronze: (5) Rajiv Ouseph (Eng), (3) Marc Zweibler (Ger)
Gold: (1) Carolina Marin (Spa)
Silver: (2) Kirsty Gilmour (Sco)
Bronze: (3) Line Kjaersfeldt (Den), Anna Thea Madsen (Den)
Gold: (2) Mads Conrad & Mads Kolding (Den)
Silver: : (4) Kim Astrup & Anders Skaarup (Den)
Bronze: (1) Vladimir Ivanov & Ivan Sozonov (Rus), (3) Marcus Ellis & Chris Langridge (Eng)
Gold: (1) Kamilla Juhl & Christinna Pedersen (Den)
Silver: (2) Eefje Muskens & Selena Piek (Ned)
Bronze: Maiken Fruergaard & Sara Thygesen (Den), Samantha Barning & Iris Tabeling (Ned)
Gold: (1) Joachim Fischer & Christinna Pedersen (Den)
Silver: (8) Niclas Nohr & Sara Thygesen (Den)
Bronze: (3) Jacco Arends & Selena Piek (Ned), Matthias Christensen & Lena Grebak (Den)
The next European Championships will be in the Danish city of Kolding on week 17 (April 25-30) next year.
Article by William Kings. Photos: Mark Phelan (LIVE)