Bankier doubles up on Gold
Date: 3/30/2014 7:11 PM
Published by : Manuel Røsler

In a day that had everything from glitz to glamour and lasers to lights, it was Scotland’s Imogen Bankier that stole the show as she bagged two gold medals at the French International, a tournament that has the rest playing catch up on the Badminton Europe circuit.

The organisers of the French International have gone to extraordinary lengths to provide not only a quality tournament for the players this week but an all-round entertainment package for the fans who came out in their droves today to make French International finals day a very unique experience on the Badminton Europe calendar.

Bankier had travelled to Orleans as defending champion in the mixed doubles alongside Robert Blair and the Scottish pair were made fight tooth and nail against outsiders Niclas Nohr and Sara Thygesen in the opening match of finals day.

The Danes came with a nothing to loose attitude and left nothing behind them on the court this afternoon. In the end the experience of a misfiring Blair and Bankier was enough to pull them through in three games as the defended their title, which in 2013 was their first international win after getting back together as a pair.

“We have great memories here as it is the scene of our very first win since we came back as a partnership” commented Bankier. “It is always tough to defend a title but in this arena and with this crowd and atmosphere it becomes easier to play and give everything on court.”

After securing the mixed title Bankier did not have much time for celebration as shortly after she was back on court in the women’s doubles final alongside Petya Nedelcheva. As has been the case so many times this season only the sisters Stoeva stood between Bankier/Nedelcheva and a much needed confidence boosting international win.

The match itself proved to be one sided mainly due to an injury to Gabriela Stoeva but the gutsy sisters kept battling when many others would have most certainly thrown in the towel.

“It was obvious that Gabriela was not 100% fit but we still had to stay focused and play our game and win today to get our European medal chances back on track” said Nedelcheva in her post match interview.

Luckless French settle for silver

Both Sashina Vignes Waran and the French men’s doubles pair of Mittelheisser and Kersaudy had to settle for the second step of the podium in a day that ultimately deserved a home win for the 1500 fans that came to watch.

Sashina Vignes Waran was only managed to get in front once in her match against Spain’s Beatriz Corrales and that was early in the second game. The reality of the situation was that Corrales dominated the play in a match that the French number one failed to impose her game.

“It is very nice to win her and defend my title from last year. This year I won without dropping a set and I feel my game is in good shape as we prepare for the Europeans in a few weeks’ time.” Said Corrales after her victory.

Mittelheisser and Kersaudy put up a better fight against arguably the best men’s doubles pair on the circuit in the form of Cwalina & Wacha from Poland. The French took the opening game and had a 14-10 led in the second before the wise old heads from Poland summoned all their reserves of strength to come back and win in three games. Just like Corrales and Blair & Bankier the Poles to were defending their 2013 title and Adam Cwalina was a very relieved man in his post-match interview.

“That was close and credit to the French as they have really improved over the last months”.

When reminded that was their tenth win in twelve months Cwalina understandably proud of that achievement but stressed to point out that the focus in on Kazan in a few weeks’ time.

“I have honestly lost count of how many tournaments we have won this past year but for us it is all about preparation for the European championships in Russia in a few weeks. We will go to Indonesia now for some top level sparring and hopefully come back and win a medal at the Europeans in Kazan.”

Pablo wins match twice in one afternoon or so he thought

Spain Pablo Abian lifted his first title since the 2013 Welsh Open in Cardiff but had to do it the hard way against Russia’s Vladimir Malkov. The Spaniard took the opening game 21-16 and threw away a 9-1 lead in the second to allow his Russian opponent back into the match.

All looked to be going according to plan for Abain leading 20-12 in the deciding game and the Spanish number 1 celebrated in true Latin style when he felt a smash down the line was in and the title was his. After celebrating with the crowd Abian turned around to realise that the umpire had correctly overruled the line judges decisions to the despair if the Spaniard.

With his concentration now broken Malkov edge closer and closer to Abain and could not believe his own luck when he levelled at 20-20. Abian’s coach who is also his girlfriend proved invaluable at this point as she managed to settle her man and Abain regained his focus to eventually see out the match 22-20 in the deciding game.

In his post-match interview Abian went to extraordinary lengths to apologise to the fans and organisers for his mistake at match point.

“I have to apologise to the organisers and fans as I really thought I had won leading 20-12. I did not hear the over rule and with such a big crowd with great atmosphere it was difficult to hear. You can understand for me it was difficult to find out I still had to play more points but in the end I managed to win and of course I am very happy”

For all results from the finals in Orleans click HERE

To revisit all the matches on demand on Badminton Europe’s YouTube channel click HERE

Article by Mark Phelan (Live in Orleans). Photos by BadmintonPhoto.

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