Lauren Smith and Chloe Birch became the first English women’s doubles pair to win the YONEX Belgian International title in nine years this evening.
Smith enjoyed a victorious return to action following Rio 2016 as she and Birch beat Danish duo Julie Finne-Ipsen and Rikke Soby Hansen 24-22, 18-21, 21-18 after a closely-contested encounter.
And it ensured Birch enjoyed a 21st birthday to remember after reaching the milestone on Friday.
It is Badminton England’s first victory at the competition since 2012, when fellow Olympians Marcus Ellis and Gabby Adcock took the mixed crown.
Amazing 21st Birthday weekend winning the Belgium IC with @LaurenE_Smith 💪🏼 but looking forward to getting home to see family and friends 🎂— Chloe Birch (@ChloeBirch95) September 17, 2016
Smith and Birch’s success is even more impressive when you consider it is their first competition alongside each other since partnering one another for the opening three games of the debut AJ Bell National Badminton League season two years ago at Loughborough Sport – now Loughborough Lightning.
The English duo won two matches on Friday to reach the showpiece – firstly beating Cheryl Seinen and Iris Tabeling of the Netherlands 21-12, 21-16, before Japan’s Akane Araki and Ayaka Kawasaki retired while trailing the first game 15-14.
Denmark’s Finne-Ipsen and Hansen are at a career-high ranking of 74 in the world and had already downed one set of English opponents earlier this week when they beat Sarah Walker and Sophie Brown 14-21, 22-20, 26-24 in round two.
Likewise, Birch and Smith saw off Danish opposition in round two as they emerged 19-21, 21-14, 21-14 victors over third seeds Amanda Madsen and Isabella Nielsen.
There was also a promising week in Leuven for Sam Parsons, who came through three matches to reach the semi-finals in the men’s singles.
Parsons saw off both Mattias Borg and Rahul Yadav Chittaboina in three games before a 21-13, 21-16 victory over Erik Meijs in the quarter-finals, although fifth seed Lucas Corvee proved a step too far in the last four – the Frenchman triumphing 21-18, 21-16.
See all the stars of Rio in Birmingham next March!
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