The European Youth Championships in table tennis took place from July 8 to July 17 in the city of Zagreb, Croatia. Over the cause of these days, we saw some great talents starting to shape the future of table tennis in Europe. Let’s take a look at the performance of our young Butterfly-stars in Zagreb and hear their story on winning a medal at this prodigous event..
Sunday had been an exciting day for our two stars: Adina Diaconu (17) from Romania and Alexandre Cassin (18) from France. Both Butterfly players stood in their respective finals at the Euopean Youth Championships and both were about to win the title with a 4:0 victory. Although, they did not know it just yet.
ADINA DIACONU (ROU):
It was a very hard competition! From the beginning I left home with a lot of bad thoughts because 10 days before this championships I couldn’t practice because of my hand and I was not sure how it would influence my perfomance. We started the competition not very well, we lost against Belarus in the group and then we had a really hard draw, in the quarter finals with France we had a very strong team that we expected to meet in the finals – not before. But after our first loss we were more concentrated and motivated than ever and we won all matches until the finals. We did not expect to meet Serbia there, but they had a reputation for being fighters. I played the first match against Izabela Lupulesku so I knew from the begining that maybe that match could decide te result of the overall match. In the end, we are very happy and proud that we won our second gold medal in a row at junior girls team and we are qualified for the World Championships! I want to thank my team and also our psychologist who helped very much in tense situations and I beleive that without her we would not have made it this far.
In the girl’s doubles event, we stayed focused all the matches because we knew that our doubles game was not our strong point, but in this championships we felt very good and worked well together. Also in the finals we had a big chance to win the match but, maybe we were a little bit unlucky at one point and than the belgium girls return the match.
After the team events I started to play better until reached my best form in the finals. I had a lot of hard matches, especially in semi finals against Zhang Xuang from Spain. I lead with 3-0 then maybe I was little bit too relaxed and she started to play better and better. In the last game I was really motivated because only there was only 1 single game between me and the finals and I won.
In the final it was really a surprise for me to play against a player from Azerbaijan. I started very motivated at first because she beat one of my team mates -Andreea Dragoman – and secondly because I wanted very much to defend my title. At the end I was really proud, and happy too, because in 5 years of European Championships I won 12 gold medals and I’m really close to Vladimir Samsonov who with his 13 medals ..
It is just great for me to be first in that ranking, I have one more year at the junior level, one more chance to win a gold medal but this will not put pressure on me I just want to be healthy and play my best, the results will come for sure .
Watch her victory in the finals here..
ALEXANDRE CASSIN (FRA):
Remember in 2014, he won the sigle junior european title. As winner 2 years before in the cadet category, he became the first French player to succeed in both. Now, he is the best performer as a French and also as the best European player. He won 8 gold medals: three in the singles and five in the team event. We are talking about Alexandre Cassin.
What is your feeling and what is the différence to your first title in 2014?
It’s different. I won my first title as a junior in my first year (J1). I had won the cadet title in 2012 and in 2013, I won also a bronze medal in the junior category. My motivation was to show that I was able to win, to be the best in my new category. But this year I would to show that I was still here and that I will never give up. To be number 1 is a lot of pressure. This title in 2016, it’s a strong feeling.
When you celebrated your title, on Sunday 17th July, you did special gesture with your fingers?
It was something in the direction to Joe (Seyfried) and to all the team. It was for fun and something in relation with the rap singer, Jul. I wanted the team to be proud of me.
In 2015 in Bratislava, you won againts the Swedish Anton Kallberg during the team final event but you lost in the singles final. Dis you take experience on the loss to prepare the final 2016 ?
This loss stayed in my head for many months. People criticized my attitude during the final. And I took time to improve, to be a better competitor. Of course it was quite hard but on all aspects (physically, tactics and table tennis), I worked a lot. I did not play well the final in 2015. I think I was in a better feeling before
going to Zagreb with the aim to win.
Your dominiation during the final vs Andres Levenko was impressive..
I gave my best at 100 % maybe I did some mistakes, but I think I used all my skills. Yes I played well.
Last year, you had a problem with one specific service maybe « wrong »…
Yes I had also some critics… This specific service is close the limit but I do my best to train it all the year. But to play in Zagreb, I decided to not use this one and to develop others services. It’s now better for me: I win more and more points with my differents services.
I knew that with title I will get my first sélection in the senior national team. Last year It could be also the case but maybe I was too focused on it. So this year, I welcome this selection with pleasure!
In the junior category, you win more medals than an-Ove Waldner and Timo Boll but maybe the level of competors were differentback then . What do you think ?
Maybe in 2014, in Italy, the level was more homogeneous. This year I felt all my competitors wanted to beat me. Today, to get side by side with Waldner and Boll, it’s unbelievable.
In the team event, France has lot againt Czech Republic with 2 looses form your side…
I knew that I could not afford any mistakes. To be the team leader has always put pressure on me, but my teammates always trusted me. I was upset, but it was a really a bad day for me with 2 losses against Jiri Martinko and Tomas Polansky. But I did not give up, I’ve found the way to recover. And the day after we found energy to reach the fifth place and to qualify for World junior Championship in South Africa.
Next January, you will play in the senior category. Are you ready for this level which may mean you will lose your first position?
Nobody talked to me about this but I’m not afraid. I know the senior level is totally different. I will become a “basic” player and it will be hard to be a top player. Today of course Gauzy, Ovtcharov, Freitas are better than me… I know that I will have some losses but I will continue to work on my game.
Since you are back from Croatia, what do you do ?
I train as a sparring-partner with the french players qualified for the Olympics and then I will spend three weeks in Guadeloupe (Carribean), my native island.
Will you leave your racket or will you continue to play ?
My home is located in Bé Maho but I will move through the Island. I will play in some clubs and I will bet some games with some friends… they are going down! (smiles)
Due to the time difference, Guadeloupe is a very good position to follow the Olympic Games ?
Even if I will not play the O.G., I’m really excited. I’m fully involved to follow it. I think Chinese will win singles and team events. But I think Korea, Japan and France can compete too for the medals. It will be difficult for the singles but I think Ovtcharov, Lebesson and Gauzy have a chance! I trust them, their level was very high during the training camp.
MARIA TAILAKOVA (RUS):
Our coaches decided that I would play in Junior team – on the 3rd position.
Before the tournament our cadet team was confident in our best results. The cadet girl team was first in team ranking and Anastasia Kolish was first in the singles ranking.
In the individual events my main rivals (or at least so I thought) were Anastasia Kolish and Kristina Kazantseva. When Kolish lost to a player from Azerbaijan team, I was sure that I would play in the final against Kazantseva, and that’s exactly what happened.
About the finals match: Our head-to-head results are pretty much 50/50. In the finals all games started quite difficult for me, but then I was able to raise my level. Perhaps Kristina did not believe in the victory.
My blade and rubbers: I use Butterfly Innerforce ZLF and Butterfly Tenergy 64 (2.1) on both sides.
Kristina KAZANTSEVA (RUS):
Besides my teammates Tailakova, Kolish and Zironova, I was able to stand out from the other players Povade from France and Playan from Romania.
To my great regret I was hitting my physical limits close to the end of the championship. I played the most matches in the tournament among all participants (31) and fatigue was significant. In addition, a small leg injury prevented me from showing the best result in the finals in singles and doubles.
The physical demand was very high. On some days we left the venue at 10 or even 11 pm! There were a lot of games.
I liked the fact that when we beat the team of Azerbaijan many European team coaches came to us after the game and congratulated on this victory.
My favorite player is Liu Shiwen!