As the dust settles on the European U17 Championships, 4 Welsh players will have learned so much about the long-term requirements of a professional badminton player.
Archie Bult, Dan Clarke, Aimie Whiteman and Jazz Owen flew out to Poland on 29th August to compete in the Team and Individual events. After a long day travel the players got to have a practice hit in the main hall at 21:00h and this gave them some valuable experience in the big hall.
First up on Friday morning was a strong Estonian team. The Welsh put up a great fight but went down 4-1 with the sole point coming from a tight three set victory from Aimie Whiteman, but some very strong performances by the rest of the team without the result it deserved.
Next up came a determined Faroe Islands. Wales were favourites for this match but this can change the nature of the performance. Indeed the players did not produce the same quality of match, but were still able to grind out well earned victories against a dogged Island team.
Then came the seeded team of the group; Czech Rep. This was a tough encounter but one in which the young Welsh team competed from start to finish. Although going down 5-0 the players produced some stunning rallies and pushed the higher ranked opponents throughout the very enjoyable tie.
Later that same day the Welsh played their 4th match of the campaign and produced a strong 5-0 victory against Armenia. They refused to let complacency nor fatigue set in and won the match handsomely.
The team event was won by a dominant Danish team who full deserved their victory but it was Serbia who exceeded all expectations by winning through to the final and challenged the Danes with some wonderful performances.
As Wales returns to team competition, this young group of players have set a high standard for future Welsh teams. Their attitude and determination were excellent and perhaps with a little more experience they could have found some even better results.
After 1.5 days rest, the Individual event started with the Welsh players trying to re-create their performances from the Team event. While they could match some of the performances they could not quite get the results their play deserved. While some wins were earned, the Welsh players exited the event in the early rounds.
The Finals of the individual events saw 4 countries represented with Denmark taking 3 titles and Russia taking 2. The quality of the badminton was outstanding and only time will tell if any of these fine young athletes can make it to the Olympic podium in years to come. We wish them all well.