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December 6, 2022

Lauren Smith and Chloe Birch claimed a silver medal at the Welsh International Badminton Championships on their return to competition. 

The women’s doubles duo just missed out on gold as they lost to France’s Margot Lambert and Anne Tran 9-21 21-14 21-9 in a decider. 

Jess Pugh and Callum Hemming also reached the podium with bronze in the mixed doubles, as they lost to eventual winners Jesper Toft and Clara Graversen of Denmark in the semi-finals. 

There was plenty of English representation at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff with Rory Easton and Zach Russ reaching the men’s doubles quarter-finals. 

After over a month away from the court as Smith nursed an ankle injury, the pair opened with a bye before needing a decider to see off Sweden’s Clara Nistad and Jessica Silvennoinen 21-14 18-21 21-17. 

Up against fellow English pair Estelle van Leeuwen and Lisa Curtin in the last eight, the top seeds came through 21-8 21-11 before advancing to the finals with a 21-17 21-17 win over Graversen and Natasja P. Anthonisen of Denmark. 

Lambert and Tran, the third seeds, proved too much in the final, recovering from losing the opening game to clinch the trophy in the decider. 

Van Leeuwen and Curtin’s run to the quarter-finals was an all-English affair, beating Charlotte Freer and Saffron Morris 21-9 21-15 in the first round before coming through a three-game thriller against Sian Kelly and Miu Lin Ngan 21-14 23-25 24-22. 

Leona Lee and Chloe Dennis reached the last 16 stages while Annie Lado and Abbygael Harris, and Hope Warner and Lizzie Tolman suffered opening round defeats. 

Third seeds Hemming and Pugh breezed through their opening match against Emil Lauritzen and Signe Schulz of Denmark, winning- 21-8 21-18 in the round of 32. 

They were tested by another Danish pair in the form of Christine Busch and Mads Vestergaard but prevailed 21-19 20-22 21-18 to set up a quarter-final meeting with a third duo from Denmark. 

Against Anthonisen and Rasmus Espersen, Pugh and Hemming proved too strong, winning 21-11 21-16 in 34 minutes. 

In the semi-finals against their final Danish opponents, Toft and Graversen, Pugh and Hemming could not find a way past, losing 21-19 21-13 to end a successful week with a bronze medal. 

Alex Green and Van Leeuwen also lost to Toft and Graversen, suffering a 21-18 21-13 defeat after an impressive run to the quarter-finals. 

Danish pair Mathias Thyrri and Amalie Magelund knocked out Brandon Yap and Annie Lado with a 21-18 21-14 win in the first round, with world no.7 Mark Lamfuss and Isobel Lohau defeating Steven Smallwood and Hope Warner in the second round. 

Toft also knocked out Eaton and Russ in the men’s doubles as he teamed up with Andreas Sondergaard. 

Eaton and Russ beat English pair Rowan Clark and Alex Dillingham 21-8 21-10 in the opening round before coming through 21-18 21-19 against Milosz Bochat and Robert Cybulski of Poland to set up their meeting with the Danes. 

The duo put up a good fight against the world no.85s losing 21-16 25-23 in 38 minutes. 

While Denmark delivered heartbreak in the latter stages of the tournament, it was French opponents who came out on top in early exchanges in the singles. 

Curtin showed signs of significant progress as she lost to eventual semi-finalist Léonice Huet 22-20 21-10 in the first round of the women’s singles with Abigail Holden also tasting defeat to France’s Rosy Oktavia Pancasari in the round of 32, losing 21-13 21-15. 

In a hugely encouraging display, Johnnie Torjussen lost to world no.45 Christo Popov in an epic, going down 23-21 22-24 21-16 in the first round with Popov then teaming up with brother Toma Junior Popov to knock out Green and Yap in the men’s doubles last 16, 21-14 20-22 21-17, an impressive performance by the English duo. 

Also falling at that stage were Sam Jones and Jonty Russ against Denmark’s Mads Vestergaard and Lauritzen 21-15 21-17, while Zach Brobowski and Steven Smallwood were knocked out in the opening round with a 21-15 21-11 defeat to Julien Maio and William Villeger of France.

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