UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

It was an excellent 2019 FIR World Doubles Championships as Great Britain came second in the (unofficial*) medal table, with six British players becoming World Champions across 4 categories including two players “doubling up” to add a doubles title to their singles title from Zurich.  However, the weekend will be especially remembered for small piece of history that Dan Busby claimed.  For all the results from the World Double Championships, see tournament software here.  


Once again, the medal table is a pleasant sight for British eyes

World Champions: Busby, Griffiths, Howard, Rayner, Shepherd and Stahl
It was 2011 the last time a British player stood at the top of an Elite World Championships podium, when Calum Reid became the 2011 World Champion.  Previously, our other Elite medallists have been Calum & Katy Buchanan in the Mixed Doubles in 2006 and Sarah McFayden in the 2004 Women’s Elite Singles.  Simply put, British Elite World Titles have been a rare occurrence in Racketlon!  However, Dan Busby, partnered with Austria’s Christine Seehofer were top seeds and favourites, despite never having won a World Tour title together.  Dan went so far as to state their intentions in a interview in the week before.  Yet, talking a good game and playing it are different kettles of fish, but Dan perhaps saved some of his best for when he needed it most.  In the final against third seeds Kresten Hougaard (Den) & Astrid Reimer-Kern (Ger), Dan & Chrisi held a 14 point lead into squash.  Unsurprisingly, Astrid, a world ranked squash player dismantled Chrisi, and Dan was left with the ruins of a squash set, 1-11 down to a man on his best days, Dan beats only to 12.  

It was then that Dan produced one of the most sublime sets of squash he has ever put in on a Racketlon squash court.  Given it was a world final, given he was playing Kresten (these two know each others game so well), and given he was 1-11 down, it needed something special.  He chased Kresten down, 1-11 became 15-17, but with 15-17 becoming 16-20, it looked like Dan had run out of energy.  Busby dug in again, 16-20 became 20-20.  It finished 23-25, a 2 point loss, but the 14 point lead was now 12, leaving Dan & Chrisi to score 10 points for victory.  Racketlon swings on fine margins, if they had needed 12 (or more) for that win, Kresten & Astrid would have been definitely in the hunt, 10 you feel made it less of a contest.  And so it was, 10 points was eased to ensuring that Dan Busby became the first British Elite World Champion since 2011 and the first English born Elite World Champion ever!  

It was more business as usual for our other World Champions!  Having become Men’s O40s World Champion in Zurich last year, Duncan Stahl was in the hunt to add the Men’s O40s Doubles title to his collection.  Partnered with Dutchman Paul Twisterling, Duncan & Paul reached the final where they would face Dutch pairing and top seeds, Alwin Krist & Guss Van De Burgt.  For Duncan & Paul, they were just too strong for the top seeds and romped to victory in the Gold Medal match 21-17, 21-10, 21-11.  Bruce Shepherd was looking to achieve the same feat as Duncan in the Men’s O60s category.  Having become singles World Champion last year in Zurich, Bruce joined regular partner in crime, Neil Rayner and these two ran amok in the four pairing round robin.  Dropping just 3 out of 12 sports in their three matches (2 badminton and 1 TT for the record), they dominated this event and sealed their first doubles World Title.  Bruce is now the undisputed king of the O60s division, while for Neil this was a first named world title after being a stalwart of many an O55s team triumph!

Finally, it would be a surprise if there wasn’t some British Junior dominance!  Despite making waves in the Elite classes (especially the Mixed Doubles), Luke Griffiths retained the composure to ensure he and Angus Howard controlled the Boys U16s event.  For Luke, this represents another U16s World (or European) Title (3 x U16s doubles, 2 x U16s singles) , he is the dominant name in this division, for Angus this adds U16s doubles to his U13s singles and U13s team titles won in Zurich last year.  


Our New British World Doubles Champions (clockwise from top left): Bruce Shepherd, Neil Rayner, Dan Busby, Duncan Stahl, Angus Howard & Luke Griffiths

Silver for Shelley
Another of our singles World Champions from Zurich was also in the hunt for a doubles title in Belgium, but alas for Jo Shelley & Volker Sach (Ger), it wasn’t to be Gold in the Mixed O40s event, as Dutch pairing Marjoke Van Doeland & Paul Twisterling were too strong for everyone.  That left them facing top seeds (and Czech Open champions) Esther Dubendorfer (Swi) & Thomas Larsen (Den) in a silver medal match.  Despite all his (phenomenal) efforts on Live Blog, Sam Barker, missed out on his desire for gumi-arm drama (and no doubt a chance to plug a great article on the subject published last week) following the Elite classes around.  He should however have followed the Mixed O40s Silver medal match.  Jo and Volker were five down into the tennis and needed an excellent set of tennis to have a chance.  By hook and by crook, Jo & Volker forced the gumi-arm and then won it to seal a silver medal for the British-German pairing!  


Silver Medalist: Jo Shelley

Vincent’s Resplendent in Bronze
Calum Reid entered the Men’s A doubles with German partner Cornelius Radermacher, looking to complete his Triple Crown of World Titles and join an exclusive club of Racketlon players.  However, his challenge was stopped in the semi-finals by the French pairing of rising star Arnaud Genin and the intermittently retired Cedric Junillon.  Despite the set back, the pairing rallied to win     bronze by defeating “Team Paul”, Sach (Ger) & Twisterling (Ned).  

There were also a brace of Bronze medals in the over fifties classes as Alan Plater & Katrin Maldre (USA) claimed bronze in the Mixed O55s, a first World Championships medal for Alan and a first World Championships medal for the USA won by Katrin!  Michael Appleton & Christian Borner (Ger) claimed bronze in the Men’s O50s event.  

However, the rest of our bronze medals were won by two members of one family.  The Vincent family, have as regular followers of the UK Tour will know, become something of a star family in our eyes.  Regularly attending events, no matter the journey required, they rock up with energy and enthusiasm and are representative of why those who organise the tour are happy to expand that energy.  Here in Belgium, brother & sister James and Claudia were looking to add to their successes from Zurich last year (James winning U13s team gold and singles bronze; Claudia U16s Girls bronze).  As brother and sister, they were entered in the Mixed U21s event, which featured top Elite players such as Anna Wall, Luka Penttinen and King of Rackets runner up, Zuzana Severinova.  This was a stellar field, but James & Claudia were not to be put off.  They battled hard against their fearsome opponents, earning their respect before winning the Bronze medal.  James added another Bronze to his collection in the U16s with Greek partner Aris Solomon, Aris claiming Greece’s first World Championships medal, as such James Vincent & Alan Plater have helped two other Racketlon nations make their own history in Belgium!  


Bronze Medallists (Clockwise from top left): James Vincent, Claudia Vincent, James Vincent, Michael Appleton & Alan Plater)


Huge credit must go to the organisers in Oudenaarde fo what was a fantastic and huge event, and to Inge Omey who has provided a monumental number of excellent photographs on Facebook (view, like and tag yourself through the Racketlon Facebook page).  However, the true champion of the whole weekend, was Sam Barker.  Sam’s tireless work on the Live Blog made it possible for everyone in the Racketlon community but not in Belgium to follow and enjoy the event.  You can relive it all through Sam’s eyes here (Day 1 and Day 2).  

Many of our new World Championship medallists will be in action on the UK Tour in the coming weeks, entry for events in Northumberland (16th June), Keele (22nd June), York (14th July), Manchester (28th July) and Canturbury (4th August) is open now for you to join them, how can you get on against a World Championships medallist?

*Unofficial no doubt until Sam steals it later