By Grania Shankley
A huge well done to our Scots Colin Leslie, Andrew Davies, Gregor Anderson and Niall Jarvie who competed in the recent European Para Championships 2023.
The Championships took place in Rotterdam from Tuesday 15 – Sunday 20 August. There were ten men’s events, nine women’s events, and three mixed doubles events, as well as much sought after qualification ranking points on offer for the men’s and women’s singles events for the 2024 Summer Paralympics.
We caught up with our players to find out how they got on, the experience of playing in these Championships, as well as a bit of reflection on their personal development.
The European Para Championships 2023 were Colin’s fifth European international – this particular event was called the European games as they plan to hold it every 4 years to coincide with the Paralympic Games.
Colin’s campaign got off to a great start and he tells us he was honoured to be playing in the opening game of the Championships with mixed SL 3 – SU 5 partner Catherine Rosengren (of Denmark) beating Turkish pair Mustafa Tugra Nur and Zehra Baglar in straight sets (21-17 21-14).
In Round 2 Colin and Catherine took on no.2 seeds Meril Loquette and Coraline Bergeron and while they almost pulled it back in the second set, the French pair proved too clinical with a 21-12 22-20 victory.
The round of 16 brought another positive result for Colin and Catherine, winning in two straight sets (21-10 21-16) against Maurin Stubi (Switzerland) and Beatriz Monterio (Portugal) – a result that sent them into the quarter-final. A great run and partnership between Colin and Catherine was brought to a close in the quarter final by French pair Lucas Mazur and Faustine Noel (21-13 21-13) – the pair who went onto win the mixed doubles!
Colin gives a special thanks to Leslie Dewart (Ireland) who helped coach when he could and when it didn’t clash with his own players from Ireland’s games.
Colin was the oldest standing male at the tournament and qualified through his group in singles SL 3, playing the world no.1 Dan Bethel and Margus Hoop (a new player from Estonia) to get to the quarter finals. In the quarter final, eventual finalist Oleksandr Chyrkov (Ukraine) came out strong in straight sets (8-21 11-21).
When reflecting on the men’s doubles, Colin says “the standard was very high and unfortunately me and my partner Antony Forster (England) never made it through the group stages”.
Colin and Anthony suffered a loss in their Round 1 game against Turkish pair Mustafa Tugra Nur and Fuat Soruklu (13-21 17-21). In the second round they met with no.2 seeds Oleksandr Chyrkov (Ukraine) and Dilan Jacobsson (Sweden), and while the points in the first game were close (meeting at 12 apiece), the opposition pulled away in the second with a final score 21-18 21-10.
Gregor got off to a winning start in both his singles WH 2 and men’s doubles WH 1 WH 2 games, beating Milan Zelen 21-10 21-9 in the singles and partnering up with Brent Van Der Kelen (Germany) to claim victory against Ireland’s Michael Smith and Chris Stewart (21-8 21-10).
Gregor told us: “The all round experience of the European Para-Games was good. The atmosphere throughout the event felt amazing, and it was like nothing I’ve ever played in before”.
On day two the competition heated up and Gregor faced no.3 seed Thomas Jakobs (France) in the singles, suffering a loss in two straight sets (21-7 21-9). Gregor was to face Thomas Jakobs again in the doubles and couldn’t do enough with partner Brent Van Der Kelen to get the win (21-7 21-16).
Gregor’s final game came against Luca Olgiati of Switzerland, losing 21-6 21-8, however Gregor should be very proud of his performance against Luca who had a great tournament and made it all the way to the final.
Gregor said: “Being able to finally be classified as WH2 was a huge relief for me. To win a game in both doubles and singles, especially winning the first game I’ve ever played felt amazing, as did reaching the men’s doubles quarter final”.
When reflecting on his personal development, Gregor said: “I found it good to be able to find my level within the tournament, and to see where I’m at with my badminton, along with what I need to work on. I also found it interesting to be able to chat with the other badminton players as well”.
He added: “I’d like to give a huge thanks to Les for taking on the role of team coach for this tournament, and Man-Kei from Belgium for coaching me in my doubles matches”.
Andrew Davies and partner Daria Bujnicka (Poland) came away from the Games with a Bronze medal on a run that took them all the way to the semi-final – only losing out to eventual winners Jack Shepard and Rachel Choong of England.
During their opening game in the mixed doubles SH 6, Andrew and Daria showed strength in determination beating Ivan Segura Escobar (Spain) and Nina Kozlova (Ukraine) over three sets (23-21 17-21 21-16). Their second match is certainly a game to be proud of where the pair beat the no.2 seed, French pairing Charles Noakes and Elisa Bujnowskyj (18-21 22-24).
On day three in Round 3, Andrew and Daria won via a walkover (scheduled game against English pairing Isacc Maison and Anya Butterworth).
After a day’s rest, Andrew and Daria were set to go in the semi-final against in-form Jack Shepard and Rachel Choong of England, unfortunately losing out a place in the final with a result of 21-7 21-11.
Andrew told us: “The European Championships were a good experience for me to see how good I can do against the best in the world but also to watch and learn”.
When reflecting on his singles campaign, Andrew said: “I played singles where I sadly didn’t make it out of the groups but showed improvement in my play. Overall the tournament has showed me where I need to go back and work on and that I’m not too far away from the top players”.
Niall paired up with Ireland’s Ilyas Hussain in the men’s doubles SU 5. The pair couldn’t do enough in their opening match against Portuguese pair Diogo Daniel and Bruno Faria with a result of 15-21 16-21.
Niall and Ilyas’ second match was no easier with a draw against no.1 seeds and eventual winners Meril Loquette and Lucas Mazur of France, suffering a loss of 21-3 21-3.
In his opening singles SL 3 game, Niall had tough competition in no.3 seed and semi-finalist William Smith (England) losing 21-5 21-8.
In his second match, Niall came back stronger and showed much determination winning the first set against France’s Thomas Numitor, but couldn’t do enough over three sets with a final result of 17-21 21-18 21-4.
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