Across the 11 seniors categories from +40s to +70s there were many familiar names on the World Championships podium. In particular, Swiss Esther Dubendorfer (Women’s +45s) and Britain’s Jo Shelley (Women’s +50s) both reclaimed their crowns. There were also a number of maiden World Titles, but none more dramatic than that won by Austria’s Marcel Weigl (Men’s +45s).
Hosts Dominate The Over 40s to Claim Three Golds
Germany celebrated a double in the +40s as Silke Altmann and Elmar Schaub took home their first World Titles in the Women’s and Men’s events respectively. There was also a first World Title for their compatriot Carola Von Heimburg as she won the Women’s +55s.
In the Women’s +40s, Altmann was imperious, truely without an equal, winning the world title in dominant fashion. Mie Kjellser and Terhi Virtanen were brushed aside in this four lady round-robin event. Perhaps her most impressive moment came against fellow German and defending champion Anita Voelkel. For Voelkel, there was only the scant consolation of winning the tennis 21-19, long after the match was lost. Altmann dominated the badminton and squash to seal an emphatic victory. Voelkel claimed silver and Virtanen bronze, as both players took a step down the podium from where they placed in 2018.
For Elmar Schaub it was the long route to the final. He was unseeded in this 24 man draw so faced five matches for the title. On the way, he eliminated the fourth seed, Greg Lorkiewicz and top seed Nikola Mikac before a final against Nico Hobi. In the final, the Swiss, Hobi edged the TT, but after that, it was all Schaub. He dominated the badminton, edged the squash and cruised to the nine points he needed for a World Title on the tennis court. Top seed Mikac recovered from his semi-final defeat to secure the bronze medal.
Carola Von Heimberg also faced a round-robin event and like her compatriot Altmann, she too was in dominant form. Dianne Baker was swept aside, as was Zuzana Vancurikova, setting up an effective final against top seed and defending champion Katrin Maldre. Von Heimburg went into the match having dropped only a solitary set, the squash to Dianne. In the final match against Maldre she was not in the mood to lose another game. 21-17, 21-10, 21-13 and Carola Von Heimburg was a World Champion for the first time.
Only Two Successful Defenders
Despite a host of players looking to defend their titles, only two players succeeded. Esther Dubendorfer came into the +45s as the defending champion, the World No.1 and with a stack of titles on the World Tour. There were to be no stumbles in Leipzig. Dubendorfer demolished all challengers as Mie Kjellser, Nicole Kamphues and Urvashi Thapa were swept away. Dubendorfer clearly in a class of her own, Women’s +45s World Champion once again!
Kjellser, Kamphues and Thapa then played out their matches to determine who would join her on the podium, with entertaining matches that went down to the wire. Kjellser and Kamphues both edged out Thapa and then engaged in a thriller to decide who would win silver. Kamphues won the TT 21-3, but Kjellser came back, chipping away in true Racketlon style, to trail by seven into the tennis. Kjellser sealed a great come-back victory with a 21-6 tennis win, holding her nerve despite the early body blow in the TT!
Our second successful defender was Jo Shelley in the Women’s +50s. Much like Dubendorfer, Shelley was also in a class of her own in the +50s, only Nicole Kamphues could take a game off her, the TT in their match. Otherwise, Shelley was flawless, particularly on the squash court. Even second-placed Zuzana Vancurikova could not get close to Shelley in a dominant performance.
However, there was in this division also a thriller, this time for the bronze medal. Nicole Kamphues once again raced into the lead in the TT, defeating Di Baker 21-4. Baker struck back in the badminton and the squash to make it all level into the tennis, and wow, what a game of tennis. With a World Championships bronze medal on the line and the scores level at 20-20, the winner takes all tennis reached sudden death. Except, this was more a long slow drawn-out death. 20-20 became 22-22, 24-24 and 25-25, but eventually, Baker got the magical point to win 27-25
Brits Felled in Leipzig
A trio of British men were amongst those who failed to defend their titles as Richard Middleton (+50s), Martyn Langston (+55s) and Bruce Shepherd (+60s) were all eliminated. Only Langston was able to claim a medal as the shocks rained down in these events.
In the Men’s +60s, Bruce Shepherd was felled by Vlastimil Kolar. What seemed like a shock on Wednesday night was evidently not as the draw ran onward. Kolar, back after three and a half years away from the tour, stormed to the final to meet top seed and heavy favourite Peter Sakovics. However, there was to be no fairy tale ending as Racketlon legend Sakovics, absorbed a TT defeat to cruise to the World Title with wins in the following sports. Neil Rayner claimed third place.
In the Men’s +55s, defending champion Martyn Langston had a good run to the semi-finals until he was stopped by top seed Richard Hobzik. Hobzik met Thomas Larsen in the final, but the tall Dane could get nowhere near Hobzik who opened up a healthy lead into tennis, needing just two points to secure the World Title.
Defending Men’s +50s champion Richard Middleton was looking on track for yet another Men’s +50s world title until he was abruptly stopped in his tracks by an inspired Simon Whale. After seeing his 24-point lead brutally slashed in the squash, he needed 15 in the tennis. But a master-class win played out to finish 21-5 dismissed the defending champion. Unfortunately for Whale, Jack Broe Larsen was in equally clinical form. He demolished Simon in the semi-final and then cruised past Thomas Knaack in the final to upgrade a 2018 bronze medal into a 2019 World Title. Frank Bohm claimed third place.
It was late on Friday night when Marcel Weigl and defending champion Ashutosh Pednekar began their Men’s +45’s final. It started nicely for the Austrian Weigl, with a 21-12 win in the TT. However, the Indian is a talented badminton player and looked to be in complete command of the badminton set. However midway through the set, he suffered a horrible ankle injury. After an injury timeout, the Indian resumed the fight, however now sporting a massive ankle support, it allowed him to stand but could he still play?
Pednekar fought on winning the badminton to 12 to leave both players level into the squash. However here Weigl pounced. He punished his opponents now severely compromised movement with four directional movements to register a 21-14 win and a lead of seven into tennis. Despite the continued resistance, the Indian was struggling and as the clock drifted towards 1am, Weigl (and his golf glove) sealed the victory and the Men’s +45s World Title. Magnus Ekstrand defeated Taavi Soursa for bronze.
Elder Statesmen an Inspiration to Us All
Finally, we come to our last two classes, the Men’s +65s and +70s. In the +65s it was top seed (one of five top seeds to win Veterans World Titles this year) Graham King who waltzed through the rounds in this 16-draw monrad event. In the final, he faced third seed Graham Cain and in a tight tussle, the King was crowned World Champion as he reached the required 16 points with the score 16-17 in the tennis. Cain once again missing out on the O65s title, he finished second in 2018 as well! Defending champion Steen Hesselbjerg finished in third.
Finally, we come to the Men’s +70s, where Steve Rayson and Geoff Jordan won through to the final from their respective three-player box leagues. After trading big wins in the opening sports, Rayson won the squash to 10, leaving him a target of 13 for victory. At 7-7 it looked in the bag, but Geoff Jordan, cheered on by son Ray, got ahead and into a 19-11 lead and the chance to serve.
Alas for Jordan, Rayson wasn’t going to roll over. He held his nerve and claimed an excellent victory in a belting final. Claes Beckman secured bronze defeating defending champion Lennart Eklundh in the bronze medal match. Across both these categories the players defied their age, combining team and singles matches over a couple of days all while playing an excellent standard of Racketlon, an inspiration to us all
Congratulations to all our World Champions in the senior classes, both new and old. With the strength of these divisions always increasing will any of our 2019 winners be able to defend their title in Rotterdam?
The full results are available to see from all categories here.
James Pope / FIR Contributor