The podium ceremony at the 2016 European Championships last Sunday week not only crowned the best players in Europe but also and significantly brought to an end a hectic twelve-month qualification period for the 2016 Olympic games to be staged in Rio De Janerio this coming August.
The European Championships themselves proved pivotal in sorting out some of the final spots for Rio while the majority of Europe’s elite, already qualified on points, could breathe a sigh of relief that the arduous process had finally come to an end.
From a European perspective it has been a hugely successful qualification campaign with in excess of 48 players/pairs qualifying for Rio with Selena Piek (NED), Michael Fuchs (GER) and Christinna Pedersen (DEN) qualifying in two events.
Axelsen Europe’s top man
Newly crowned European men’s singles champion, Viktor Axelsen (main picture) of Denmark, finished of the race to Rio as Europe’s highest player followed very closely by compatriot Jan Ø Jørgensen. With 16 other qualifiers, including the likes of Spain’s Pablo Abian, Estonia's Raul Must and Ireland’s Scott Evans who will compete in their third Olympic Games, there will be an anxious wait for players such as Petr Koukal (CZE) and Ville Lang (FIN) as they linger just outside the automatic qualification spots and must now wait for the final shake out of places over the coming months. For Koukal, who was the flag bearer for the Czech team in London, this is a familiar position as he had to endure the same fate for London 2012 after battling back from cancer that qualification period.
To view all provisional men’s singles qualifiers for Rio click HERE
Marin’s golden opportunity
Doubles World and European champion Carolina Marin (pictured above) of Spain had nothing to worry about in terms of qualifying for Rio. As world number 1 and top qualifier Marin will represent Europe’s big hope in Rio this summer. Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour, runner up to Marin at the European Championships in France, and Germany’s Karin Schnaase are the only other Europeans inside the top 16 qualifiers while down the bottom there will be an anxious wait for the likes of Kati Tolmoff (EST) and Laura Sarosi (HUN) who will be praying that the stars align and allocations and invitation acceptances go their way.
The European Championships were particularly pivotal in women’s singles qualification as Nanna Vainio passed out Airi Mikkela for the single available Finnish spot while Ireland’s Chloe Magee went from zero to hero in just two days to possibly claim a spot for her third games.
Spare a thought for Russia’s Ksenia Polikarpova who led her compatriot Nataila Perminova for most of the qualification campaign only to be pipped at the post by a slender 370 points after Polikarpova lost out in round 1 to Tolmoff at the Europeans while Perminova did what she had to go and make the last 16 in France to overtake her compatriot.
To view all provisional women’s singles qualifiers for Rio click HERE
Men’s doubles enigma
Taking the qualification rankings at face value Europe would certainly fancy itself as being in with a medal shout come Rio this summer. With Boe & Mogensen (DEN) and Ivanov & Sozonov (RUS) (pictured above) qualifying comfortably both pairs on paper represented viable medal potential from a European perspective.
The reality of the situation is slightly different however. With Boe & Mogensen’s future still in limbo after Carsten Mogensen’s surgery after the European Men’s Team championships and Mathias Boe’s withdrawal from the Europeans last week in France the effectiveness of that partnership now comes into doubt.
Add into the mix the terrible Achilles injury sustained by Russian Ivan Sozonov in France the actual participation of the Russian All England champions also is followed by a very large question mark. There seems to be enough time for the Russian to recovery with his rehabilitation already under way, at least for the Russians to go to Rio and give it their best shot.
As for Boe & Mogensen there will be some soul searching from a Danish perspective with newly crowned European men’s doubles champions Conrad & Kolding ready to pick up the pieces.
Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge made the qualifying mark for England while Cwalina & Wacha will represent Poland after one of the most adventurous globe-trotting qualification campaigns of any pair.
Thanks to a decent run to the quarter finals at the Europeans combined with results going their way at the Asian continental championships German duo Fuchs and Schoettler have also made the qualification list which means for Germany that representation in all five disciplines is on the cards.
To view all provisional men’s doubles qualifiers for Rio click HERE
Pedersen & Piek double up
As with all doubles disciplines there are just a maximum of 16 spots available which makes qualifying in one event a huge task in itself. Qualifying in two events is almost as rare as hen’s teeth but that is exactly what Christinna Pedersen (DEN) and Selena Piek (NED) have managed to do.
Pedersen will represent Europe’s big chance in women’s doubles alongside three-time European champion partner Kamilla Rytter Juhl. The Danes have continuously brought the fight to the top Asian and realistically it will be Pedersen and Juhl who will fly the European flag in Rio.
Piek and partner Eefje Muskens (pictured above) proved they have the game to trouble the big guns but need to make that game last over a maximum for three sets and the duration of the tournament in Rio. Piek will also have the distraction of mixed doubles alongside Jacco Arends which from a Dutch perspective has represented a hugely successful qualification campaign.
The Stoeva sisters have qualified as the third European pair but judging from their recent performance at the European championships there is a lot to work on to push for medals in Rio. Both German duo Nelte/Goliszewski and English number 1 pair Smith/Olver had an excellent run in the final months of qualification and have been rewarded for their efforts with places on the final qualification table for Rio.
To view all provisional women’s doubles qualifiers for Rio click HERE
Unprecedented 4th Olympics for Mateusiak
Justifiably Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen (DEN) & Chris and Gabby Adcock (ENG) top the rankings from a European perspective in the race to Rio. However, in less than a year Poland’s Robert Mateusiak and Nadia Zieba (pictured above) went from no ranking to qualifying for Rio in what will be 40-year-old Mateusiak’s fourth Olympic Games. A phenomenal achievement for the Polish pair who will be a force in Rio and not there to make up the numbers.
Joining the Danes, English and Poles in Rio will be German pair Fuchs/Michels and Arends/Piek of The Netherlands. A semi-final spot at the Europeans last week in France cemented the Dutch pairs Olympic participation while a poor second round loss confined the hard working Russian veterans Durkin and Vislova to the reserve list.
To view all provisional mixed doubles qualifiers for Rio click HERE
Please note that the list released on 5th May 2016 is the provisional list of qualifiers. There are still some further criteria to be fulfilled such as National Olympic Committee acceptance and allocation of Tripartite positions (if any) by the International Olympic Committee. The final and complete list of qualifiers will be made after deadline date of 18th July 2016.
Article and Images by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe