Opportunity for Euro Junior medallists to shine
After the Sweden Masters last week, the Badminton Europe circuit continues its Nordic theme this coming week with a trip to Reykjavik for the annual international series rated Iceland International.
This year’s Iceland international represents a real opportunity for some of the current crop of European junior medallists from 2015 to shine on the senior stage with the doubles events offering up some real opportunities for the emerging youngsters to make their mark.
In the mixed doubles silver medallists from Poland last year Frederick Sogaard Mortensen and Sara Lundgaard (main picture) will be real medal contenders after impressing in Sweden last week. The Danes powered to a quarter final in Uppsala and were unlucky not to go further in a tournament rated a step higher than this week’s event in Iceland.
Nestled on the same side of the draw as the Danes are Ben Lane and Jessica Pugh the current European junior bronze medallists. The English and Danes met in the European junior semi-final in 2015 where the Danes came out on top. A semi-final meeting is on the cards again in Reykjavik this coming week if top seeded Poles Pietryja and Wojtkowska fail to bring their top game with them to Iceland.
In the bottom half of the mixed draw the Scottish pair of Adam Hall and Eleanor O’Donnell will be ones to watch after impressing at the tail end of 2015. It is surely just a matter of time before the Scottish pair get their hands on senior medal on the circuit.
Sogaard Mortensen teams up once again with Mathias Bay-Smidt in the men’s doubles and the Danish European junior bronze medallists will be a pair to watch this week coming after impressing in Sweden last week.
Ben Lane & Sean Vendy will carry the hopes of England while in the top half of the draw the Scottish/English combination of Coles and Hall and Polish top seeds Szkudlarczyk and Pietryja are on course for a semi-final showdown with the winners likely to be the favourites in the final.
The women’s doubles is wide open with a handful of pairs likely to be in the mix come Sunday’s finals. It is hard to look beyond the experience of Jenny Wallwork and partner Chloe Birch who travel to Iceland with little or no pressure while Danish pair Lundgaard and Van Zanne will draw a lot of positives from their quarter final in Sweden last week where lost out to eventual winners Fruergaard and Thygesen.
Experience likely to be key in the singles events
While youthful exuberance should come to the fore in all the doubles events it is likely to be the polar opposite in the singles events. Seasoned circuit professionals are most likely to have their say in both the men’s and women’s singles with the hunt for Olympic points being high on the agenda of all the likely protagonists.
Milan Ludik is the defending champion from 2015 and at the moment is the current Czech number one in a battle for an Olympic spot with Petr Koukal. Ludik has the worst possible opening round draw against Sri Lanka’s Niluka Karunaratne with the Sri Lankan also chasing an outside Olympic spot after a turbulent politically charged 2015. Kim Bruun and Marius Myhre are also in the bottom half of the draw with Myhre looking to consolidate his Olympic participation.
Poland’s Adrian Dziolko is top seed but with Pedro Martins (pictured) starting to feel the pressure as the Portuguese number 1 flirts with the outside edges of Olympic qualification the wise money might just be on Martins to come through on the top side of the draw. Lithuania’s Kestutis Navickas will look to bounce back from his first round defeat to Anders Antonsen in Sweden last week but may live to rue yet another tough draw, this week against Dinuka Karunaratne.
In the women’s singles Finland’s Nanna Vainio will look to go one step further than her runners up spot last year. The Finn had a remarkable run to the semi-finals in Sweden last week and has a real need to defend her points from last year.
Sashina Vignes Waran makes her return to the circuit and at this late Olympic juncture really needs wins to get her qualification campaign back on track after her injury destroyed 2015. Kati Tolmoff is another living on the edge of Olympic qualification and needs to start a run of consistent results to make Rio.
One certainly to watch this week in Iceland is Denmark’s Sofie Holmboe Dahl. The Gentofte player has no Olympic pressures on her shoulders and is starting to become a real force at circuit level and unfortunately for second seed Tolmoff the Dane will most likely be her second round opponent.
To see all the draws from this week Iceland International click HERE
Article and Images by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe