UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

Best ever World Championships for England!!

England topped the medal table at the 2013 World Team & Doubles Racketlon Championships with an array of stunning performances across the board. The 23-player strong squad made the trip to the Netherlands last week and returned with a total of 9 medals in all competitions, including 4.5 golds – the most of any country - meaning England topped the medal table for the first time ever!

Top Row: Left to Right: Marc Thornley, Richard Whitehouse, Anthony Phillips, Ray Jordan, Richard Middleton, Richard Lawrence, Lucy Burks, Alex Du Noyer, Josh Kashdan-Brown, James Simpson

Bottom Row: Left to Right: Bob Parker, Keith Lesser, Barbara Capper, Jeremy Krzystyniak, Nigel D'Arcy, Steve Kneller, Rakesh Gupta, Dawn Foxhall, Alex Oliver

Ray (and Jeremy) only ones without medals but doesn't Ray look slim!

 

The performance of the weekend has to go to the Over 45s team, as they came through tight matches against the Czech Republic, Germany & Sweden to win for the first time. They squeaked through against the Czechs to set up a Friday night semi-final clash with Germany – with the entire England squad there to cheer them on. Barbara Capper had a convincing win over her German counterpart, Rakesh Gupta played extremely well in the first 3 sports against Volker Sach, the doubles pair of Steve Kneller and Marc Thornley had an excellent understanding that helped them to an impressive 9 points against tennis specialists Zwiers/Gersdorf, and Richard Middleton brought the match home reaching the target points needed in tennis v Christian Alte. In the final the performances were no less impressive with Barbara winning overall v World Champion Lilian Druve, Steve & Marc in the doubles impressing with more good tennis at a very nervous stage and the singles players Rakesh and Richard bringing the win home. Very well done to all 5 players!

The over 55s’ performance was as dominant as the 45s’ was tight. Current over 55s world champion Richard Whitehouse was joined by Anthony Phillips, Nigel D’Arcy and Bob Parker in creating a team that was unbeatable. In fact, across all 3 matches they only dropped 38 points in squash in total, and only 7 against Denmark! This event was played in a round robin format and the England lads defeated the Czech Republic, Netherlands & Denmark in turn to claim gold. Recent doubles training at Redbridge, particularly for Nigel and Bob, as well as a shared car journey to Holland helping to create a good team spirit clearly worked for the team!

The junior team of Lucy Burks, Alex Oliver, Alistair Prades and Josh Kashdan-Brown picked up an impressive 3rd place. They lost to Germany in the group stage who were just a little too strong, and after defeating the Netherlands to finish 2nd in the group they played the Czech Republic for 3rd place and crushed them by 49 points. The good news is that they won’t be all too old to play in next year’s event so there is some continuity there.

The elite team, despite being the only team not to finish on the podium from England, had probably the most astonishing result of all on their way to a very impressive 5th place. With Jason Granville injured, the FIR gave special dispensation for James Simpson to double up for the A team. The first round match against Sweden was always going to be tough, however there were some good displays with Jeremy beating current world champ Stefan Adamsson at squash and Ray & Duncan combining to take out former tt pro Martin Bjorkryd and his partner in table tennis! The real excitement was yet to come.. Next up was Denmark, with a team that contained – based on this year’s performances – the 2 best men in the world. Every England player played superbly in every sport to achieve a +2 victory. Izzy beat her Danish opponent +13 to give us a buffer with a great table tennis and tennis performance (11-4 and 11-1 respectively). Ray competed with world number 1 Jesper Ratzer, only losing by 9 which included an 11-5 tt win and 7-11 badminton defeat. Rarely does the Dane go into the squash behind on points, if ever! Jeremy beat Kresten Hougaard by a point which included a delightful display of nerve-holding tennis at the end, and James and Duncan played excellent tennis doubles to defeat Kasper Jonsson and Emil Bergander 11-9. The team then lost captain Stahl who had to go home early as his sister was visiting from Papa New Guinea, so Richard Middleton stepped in to team up with Ray in the doubles against France. James Simpson was the star here as he played singles against Nicolas Sene, and won +11, which included an 11-1 squash win! Good team selection was critical against the French as they have strong badminton and squash players, so our match up of terrible badminton and excellent squash was enough to nullify them and finish 5th!

Some of the doubles events were also very impressive. The picks are Rakesh and Barbara winning the over 45s mixed event, and Alistair Prades (pronounced Prar-des) taking gold with his Dutch partner in the under 16s doubles. Rak & Barbara’s styles compliment one another to form 3 strong sports. Barbara’s prowess at the net in badminton and Rakesh’s solid play in tennis when with a strong partner are particularly noticeable. They both played excellent squash sets in the final against their Czech opponents, which made the difference. Funnily enough their closest game came in the first round where they won by a squeaky 2 points… just warming up guys! Alistair played with lookalike Tom Joosten from the Netherlands and they were fairly comfortable in their round robin group of 5, winning their 4 matches with the smallest margin being 16 points. Alistair now looks to Zurich at the end of the year to see if he can win the under 16s singles title.

Other doubles performances of note include Nigel & Bob winning a silver in the over 55s doubles – they would have had a real chance of a win but Bob’s shoulder injury just became too much for them. Josh grabbed a silver in the under 21s doubles with his German partner and Alex grabbed a bronze with his Belgian team-mate. Dawn Foxhall, an English lady based in Graz, Austria, made her international debut with a bronze medal in the mixed doubles, partnering Peter Duyck of Belgium. English Racketlon welcomes her to the family! Barbara added another medal, this time a silver as she partnered Anneli Druve of Sweden in the ladies over 45s.

Keith grabbed an impressive bronze medal playing with a strong Swedish player Olof Frojd in the mens B doubles. Given Keith & Olaf only 22-20 in tennis which decided the match, the person who stole Keith's tennis racket has a lot to answer for. The French pair were victorious in the final before the tennis v a top Hungarian pair. Cedric with his international badminton playing partner could not play squash but his movement was unbelievable. James and Alex came 5th in the B doubles – very good for debutants, defeating Jeremy and Richard along the way, and Duncan and Ray took out the much fancied French pair of Plancon & Sene in the first round before losing to number 2 seeds and former winners Krenn/Dickert. 11th was a credible finish for them.

The B team also won gold with convincing victories over Holland B, Belgium B and Germany B in the final. Andy Hopwood did well in a tough match against the German B number one. Dawn, James and with Keith & Alex in the doubles all won emphatically, including very strong squash from all pairs. This even caused Keith to be asked what his best sport was (squash or table tennis) which he was particularly chuffed about.

One other element of this England party was undoubtedly team spirit throughout. Recent training days at Redbridge have helped that. Travelling across together and staying in larger ‘squad’ based rooms are certainly a factor. Nights out to Bounce and fun events at UK based racketlon events have also made a difference. There is a good positive energy among this group of players; the team togetherness the over 45s showed before, during and after their matches was the most impressive of all nations. Every member of the England squad, including every reserve, supporter, chauffeur and travelling parent deserve credit. Well done!

Performances throughout the year are a large factor, along with rankings and an obvious keenness for racketlon, in deciding the squads for these events. As the doubles and team events grow, there will also be more places for players to play. The singles world championships are at the end of the year in Zurich and it will be a great event, and hopefully plenty of English players will be there to support each other. Hopefully this will spur more of you on to play more!! There will also be an England C tournament at this tournament in 2014 so plenty of opportunities for players to participate. England will also be proposing for an individual Ladies competition (not with the men) as well as an Over 60's event. So there could be up to 8 squads in 2014, this is certainly a relishing prospect. We will also be proposing to add a Lady to the Over 55's event. We have also agreed in principal that we switch to TEAM GB for 2014 which will mean the probable inclusion of Calum Reid.

Thanks all,

Ray