As the sun sets on the latest U15 Quadrangular series, what an event it has been for all involved. With the pandemic still causing major logistical (and obviously, health) issues; 10 young Welsh athletes headed off to Glasgow to compete in the 2021 event, postponed from its usual slot in May.
This was also the follow-up to the cancelled event in 2020 so these young athletes, in essence, represented two teams. And what a performance they put up.
The event consists of a Team event on the Friday where they play the other three home Nations in a single day. Then Saturday and Sunday see all players compete, in all disciplines, during a knock out competition.
For the Team Event, first up on the Friday were the formidable England Team. And while victory was out of reach for the Welsh the quality of the performances were outstanding. The young dragons went down 7-2. One of the most exciting matches of the entire weekend was played in this first match with Saffron Morris and Llwyd Crump playing and outstanding match to defeat their English counterparts Oliver Wu and Lucy Dodd 21-14 13-21 25-23.
The second match of the day was against the home Nation, Scotland. And what a thriller this was. While Wales’ “veterans”, Saffron and Llwyd, again proved their class, the match hinged on Faaris Ahmad and Eli Owen and their victory over Malik Clowes and Ewan Stewart 21-15 21-18; securing a narrow 5-4 win. Another notable performance was young Isha Mekala in her singles performances showing that in future Quadrangulars, she will be one to watch.
The third match against a strong Ireland was another defeat at a scorline of 6-3. But there were huge positives from this match with Hector Bult and an inspired Zach Morris playing to the best of their ability in their Boys Doubles match and Sot-Sai Thomas and Hannah Ahmad bursting every fibre of themselves in their match. Bhavana Balu and Isha Mekala took on the exceptionally strong Siofra Flynn and Michelle Shochan and the young Welsh girls showed their future potential. But again, it was Saffron Morris who produced a stunner in her match with Michelle Shochan. Under the toughest of circumstances, she overcame her worthy opponent 21-17 18-21 21-18, diving all over the court in her efforts to retrieve everything.
The team event ended with Wales in third place but having earned the respect and admiration from the hardy spectators present and of course their opposition. During the presentation evening, Faaris summed it up best, “we came as competitors, and we go home as friends”.
Congratulations must go to the magnificent England who all played so well in fighting off all the challengers. Absolutely, the best team won the event.
Day 2 and 3 saw some very tired bodies recover and play the individual events.
Here Wales did come away with some medals with Saffron Morris producing quality game after game before finally bowing out in the final. The Silver medal she won was well earned and only a stunning effort from her opponent, Lucy Brierley, stopped her from winning gold in three exciting tight sets.
Mixed Doubles saw Saffron team up with LLwyd Crump and they won the bronze medal. Llwyd was unlucky to miss out on a second medal when he teamed up with Faaris and narrowly lost out on the medal match, 21-19 in the third, in a game that had everyone on the edge of their seats.
This event was a fantastic advert for youth badminton and all the credit must go to Badminton Scotland and their team, led by Peter Dean, in putting on such a great event despite all the difficulties COVID has presented in the last 6 months. The event ran smoothly under the watchful (and friendly) eye of Morag McCullough and her team of officials.
Badminton Wales would also like to extend a Get Well Soon to those athletes who were unfortunate to fall ill either before (and thus missing out on travelling) or during the event. Everyone knows they will all return stronger and more determined, in the not too distant future. Thank you to those Scottish players Fraser Banks and Abbie Barrie who stepped in to play, at such short notice.
We look forward to the next event, to be hosted by Ireland in 2022 – pandemic permitting!!!