UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

A Bank Holiday weekend, in particular an August Bank Holiday weekend, is synonymous with traffic jams, poor weather and griping children in the back of a car.  However, the junior and veteran sections of the UK Racketlon community, are leaving all the stresses of the UK behind as they jet out to Vienna for the first weekend of the 2017 Racketlon European Championships.  For those who have missed it, Racketlon Federation Austria have organised the ambitious plan for hosting the European singles, doubles and teams events in a 10 day period, with the junior and vets events first up (25th to 28th August).  The team event primarily takes place on Friday 26th August and UK Racketlon as ever has delivered an exciting set of squads, as we announced in July.  So with the kit distributed, accreditation acquired and hotel rooms booked, all that is left is a quick preview of our teams and what they are facing in Vienna.  Full draws, schedule and results are available here.

Under 16s – Double Trouble for the Europeans
In some respects, it is a shame that only 3 nations have been able to enter teams in the U16s competition, however, between them they have entered 6 teams in the event.  The two GB sides have been kept apart in the initial 3 team box leagues, keeping open the possibility of a GB 1-2!  Each match in the U16s features three rubbers, with two singles and a doubles, therefore a team can consist of two players.  GB1 comprises the current World U16 champions, David Bennett & Luke Griffiths.  They face a pair of Austrian teams in their group, with Austria 1 and Austria 3 attempting to stop David and Luke from adding a European title to their World title.  GB2 consists of Will Gregson and Ross Wilson.  Will, leads the list for junior title victories on the UK Tour whilst Ross has shown excellent progress with Men’s D victories at World Tour level and the Men’s C title at the British Championships.  They will be competing against Hungary 1 (third in 2016 at the World Championships) and Austria 2, with the hosts having found a hearty number of juniors to enter.  GB1 start as favourites, and rightly so, we  have never lost in this category, and we can also be hopeful of a strong showing from GB2, who are most certainly not just making up the numbers!

U21s – A Family Affair
As inevitable as the sun rising, the Boden and Griffith’s families are forming an entire GB Racketlon squad in the U21s event.  Piers Boden, Leon Griffiths and Hannah Boden will be aiming to go one step further than in their recent outings, with a brace of second places in 2015 and 2016.  A four team box league awaits the GB U21s, with their competition coming primarily in the shape of Finland 1 (including Men’s A regular Luka Penttinen) and reigning World and European champions Austria 1 (featuring world number 6 lady, Bettina Bugl and another Men’s A regular Emmanuel Schopf).  Austria 2 complete the line up in the U21s event.  Despite the prowess of their opponents, the young GB side have much to take faith from, with all three having claimed some impressive scalps on the World Tour during 2017, both Hannah and Leon ending up as runners up at the English Open in May.  World & European champions Austria 1 start as favourites, but there is reason to believe that our team can go one step further than in 2015 and 2016. 

O45s – A Brutal Test Awaits
For the GB O45s squad, Dianne Baker, Barbara Capper, Paul Doney, Shawn Doney, Jon Foulds, Richard Middleton and Mark Steeden, the O45s event is going not just be a test of skill, but also of stamina as the organisers plan on running a 5 team round robin event in a single day, matches starting every 2.5 hours from 9am onwards.  With all matches needing to be played to completion this is sure to make for a breathless event.  It is also certain to be a fiercely contested event, reigning world champions Germany will start as favourites, but this GB side has tasted success in the event before and regularly finishes on the podium.  They will be joined (probably all collapsed on the bar room floor come Friday evening) by Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.  

O55s – Defending Champions Face a Fight for their Crown
The GB O55s were triumphant in the first ever European Championships in Prague in November 2015, however a third place finish in the 2016 World Championships serves as a reminder for how hard this event can be.  7 teams have entered the 2017 event, so two box leagues, one of 3 and the other of 4 await the nations in the event.  The group of three includes our O55s team (Steve Gilott, Rakesh Gupta, Steve Kneller, Martyn Langston and Bruce Shepherd), but in a re-run of the 2016 World Championships their opponents will be Germany and the Czech Republic.  Germany defeated the GB side in 2016 before going on to claim the title defeating Hungary in the final and once again in 2017 it is likely that the winner of the GB vs Germany tie will fight for the title against the Hungarians, who are expected to win their 4 team group, which also includes Finland, Austria and Denmark.  

After the team events conclude, the weekend continues with the various junior and vets doubles and singles classes, with a host of UK players also hoping to earn further silverware over the course of the weekend.  All the draws for these events can be found here.  Keep an eye on the Facebook page and Twitter for updates on the progresses from all the Brits this coming weekend.