Team England Para-Badminton stars Martin Rooke (Herts), Rachel Choong (pictured, Lancs) and Andrew Martin (Kent) all secured two European titles at the 2012 European Para-Badminton Championships in Dortmund. In addition, Gobi Ranganathan (Herts), Oliver Clarke (Kent) and Antony Forster (Avon) topped the podium once, with Daniel Lee (Essex), Bruno Forbes (Middlesex) and Krysten Coombs (Devon) grabbing silver as a reward for their efforts over the weekend.
In a tournament of over 100 players from 16 nations across the continent, Team England grabbed more Gold medals than any other nation, securing six to outdo home favourites and traditional powerhouses, Germany.
Martin Rooke carried his superb recent form into the tournament and is still unbeaten in international play. After he and Ranganathan swept all before them in the WH2 (Wheelchair) Men’s Doubles, the close friends and bitter rivals went head to head in the final of the WH2 Men’s Singles, in which Rooke prevailed 21-15; 16-21; 21-17 after a 46 minute nail-biter. Rooke arrived at the final via a routine 21-12; 21-8 win over Spain’s Guillermo Lama Seco, whilst Ranganathan had been made to work hard for a 21-15; 17-21; 21-19 victory over Germany’s David Holz.
Rachel Choong displayed her customary dominance in the SS6 (Short Stature) events, waltzing through her group before crushing Ireland’s Emma Farnham 21-6; 21-2 in the semi-finals and taking German second-seed Milena Hoffmann to the cleaners in a consummate 21-7; 21-6 final win. The Scouse shuttler consolidated her position as the best in Europe for her category by partnering Team England team-mate Andrew Martin to the SS6 Mixed Doubles crown, taking out Russia’s Alexander Mekhdiev and Germany’s Anna Spindelndreier 21-8; 21-8 in the final. Martin and his club-mate Ollie Clarke took the SS6 Men’s Doubles crown for the third time in succession, the key to which was a hard-fought 17-21; 13-21; 10-21 victory over their compatriot Krysten Coombs and Ireland’s Luke Irvine. However, Martin was thwarted in his quest for the SS6 Men’s Singles title which he had targeted prior to the tournament. Despite impressing on his way to the final, Martin fell at the last hurdle to his old adversary Niall McVeigh (Ireland) 19-21; 15-21.
In the SL4 (Standing) Men’s Doubles Antony Forster (left) once again secured European Gold. Following up from triumph in Switzerland in 2010, Forster paired with young German Jan-Niklas Pott to secure the crown by defeating English pair Forbes/Lee in the semi-finals (21-16; 21-12) and then overcoming German pair Schnitzler/Seibert 21-16; 21-16 in the final. Forster had previously been unable to outwit his partner in the quarter-finals of the SL4 Men’s Singles, ending up on the wrong end of a 21-17; 17-21; 12-21 scoreline. However, Bruno Forbes provided a degree of vengeance for his Team England team-mate, inflicting a straightforward 21-16; 21-15 defeat on Pott as he surged into the final. Forbes suffered final heartbreak in the end, as he was defeated by Pascal Woulter (Germany) 11-21; 15-21, but will be delighted with his performance over the course of the tournament.
The most surprising run of the tournament may have been from Daniel Lee, (below) who battled to the final of the SL3 Men’s Singles before being forced to settle for silver by Scotland’s World Champion Alan Oliver. Lee, who was re-classified as an SL3 player on the eve of the tournament and therefore had to play half-court singles, adjusted fantastically to the challenge by dominating his group before powering past Belguim’s Bob Beismans (21-8; 21-14) in the quarter finals and Germany’s second seeded Tim Haller (23-21; 21-14) in the semi-final. However, Oliver’s experience proved too much and Lee went down in straight games (17-21; 19-21). A special mention must also go to one of the trailblazers for Para-Badminton in England, Meva Singh Dhesi (Middx), who battled his way to a bronze medal in the SL3 Men’s Doubles alongside Scotland’s Niall Jarvie, giving the top seeded German pair a real scare as they took the first game in the semi-final before finally being squeezed out 21-18; 15-21; 16-21.
Team England Para-Badminton’s coach for the tournament, Helen Ward, was delighted with the squads’ performance over the course of the weekend, calling it an “amazing achievement” and saying that the squad were “a pleasure to work with”. She went on to say, “I was really proud of how every player has relished the opportunity to compete against top class players from across Europe and the standard was impressively high. Hopefully our players will use this as a good platform to go into the major events next season.”
Disability Manager Tom Webster proclaimed himself “delighted” with the medal haul, saying that it: “Fully reflects the commitment, dedication and skill of the players. The medals won will give great momentum moving into next season and I expect the players to continue to push each other to improve and consolidate their positions at the very highest levels of International Para-Badminton over the course of next season, leading up to the World Championships in September 2013.”