Sunday 29th January and the U16 team arrived at Babington knowing the scale of the task ahead – last time these 2 teams met in a Shires match the result was an 18-2 victory for a Yorkshire team possessing strength in depth……but the team were determined to give 100% effort and to improve on this score.
Sameer Chenia, Harry Clare, Rowan Clark, Joe Goodenough
Jess Allen, Tamsin Betts, Izzy Pike, Jess Rodgers
With the mixed up first, it was an encouraging start; both Harry & Izzy and Joe & Tamsin dug deep to record wins so the teams went into the singles events level at 2-2. We knew this was likely to be the hardest part of the day with Yorkshire’s strength in the singles discipline, and so it was to be proved; despite the team giving it their all and some very close losses, only Jess R was able to convert her match to a Leicestershire point. The score at this point was 3-9 with Yorkshire only needing 2 wins from the 8 level doubles matches to claim the overall victory.
Playing mostly for Leicestershire pride now, the team continued to battle hard for every point. Our level doubles pairings of Jess R/Izzy and Jess A/Tamsin proved what they have been showing from their recent medal hauls on the U16 and U17 tournament circuits; in the doubles events, Leicestershire are a force to be reckoned with, winning all 4 matches and only dropping a single rubber in the process. The boys continued to battle right until the end but couldn’t manage to win any of their matches against a very strong Yorkshire boys’ team.
The final score was a win for Yorkshire 13-7 but all agreed the final figures didn’t reflect the quality of the badminton played by our boys and girls throughout. Every player put 100% effort in for the county and the improvements made by each individual reflected in the final scoreline; this team are definitely on the up!
Saturday 21st January saw many of the Team Leics junior players in tournaments in a variety of locations and as usual, saw many more medals brought home to the county.
Matilda Sherwin, who is one of our youngest players at only 8 years old, travelled to Milton Keynes for their U11 All Stars event. Pairing up with a Wiltshire player she had never met before, Matilda approached the matches with her customary confidence, coming away with a silver medal in only her second tournament!
A little closer to home and some of our U15’s were also winning medals at the West Midlands Silver event where Danny Beynon and Tom Paterson-Watts landed a silver medal. Tom went one better in the mixed with his partner Tamsin Betts with the Leicestershire pair taking home the gold medal!
Tom & Danny
Tom & Tamsin
Finally, over in Kettering Joe Goodenough and Marcus Kilby were competing in the Northamptonshire U17 bronze, winning a bronze medal in the boys doubles.
Saturday 19th January saw a cohort of older Team Leics juniors make the short trip to Warwick for the U19 Bronze event.
In the mixed doubles, Cameron Collins and Wembley Prince took gold with Cameron also taking gold in the boys’ doubles with partner Ryan King and Wembley going on to repeat her gold medal win in the girls’ doubles with Ella Haines – a clean sweep for the Leicestershire players in the 3 doubles events.
Saturday 14th January saw a good entry of 8 Leicestershire players take part in the U15 Notts Gold event.
In the mixed event, Eve Durrance carried the Team Leics flag through to the quarter finals with her Surrey partner Daniel McMillan but they were unable to make it through to the semis, going down to the second seeds Kayan & Williams. Despite some good performance, none of the Leicestershire pairs progressed into the latter stages of the level doubles events.
However it was a very different story in the girls’ singles for Jess Allen who came into this tournament off the back of some great form and results in recent weeks. After an easy progression out of her group, Jess faced the 3/4 seed Yorkshire’s Katherine Arksey who proved no match for Jess on dominant form, winning 21-19 21-15.
This win earned Jess a return visit to finals day on Sunday to face top seed Tashvi Parab who was duly dispatched in a storming semi final victory 21-10 21-18 to set up a final against second seed Smrithi Shirol. Despite winning the first game easily to 10, Jess was unable to convert the advantage to a win, narrowly losing the next 2 games but earning herself a brilliant silver medal in the process!
On Tuesday January 17th, the 2016 Men’s Badminton Doubles Olympic Bronze Medallists Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge visited the home of Leicestershire badminton at Babington Community College for an evening of exhibition matches and on-court participation alongside some of the county’s top junior talent.
Young players whose ages ranged from 8 through to 18 watched the duo take on former Olympian and current Team Leicestershire Performance Director Anthony Clark in a thrilling exhibition match, showcasing the skill, speed and stamina needed to become a world-class badminton player. All the youngsters then had the chance to step on court and play Ellis & Langridge themselves, an amazing opportunity to pit their developing talents against the Olympic medallists – there was much excitement whenever a point was won against them!
The evening concluded with a Q & A session led by Anthony Clark, giving the juniors a chance to grill the pair and pick up tips and expert advice as well as discussing the recent decision taken by UK Sport to remove every penny of funding from badminton’s future Olympic programme, despite the incredible successes of the UK badminton team at the Rio Games last year. Marcus and Chris are part of Badminton England’s campaign to have this decision reviewed and all the players and their families were urged to support these efforts by signing an online petition.
One of Team Leics youngest players, Matilda Sherwin aged 8, summed up what she thought of the event: “It was amazing to meet the players in person and see how fast and strong they are. I’m doing bleep tests at school and now I know they can score up to 16 I’m going to train hard and beat it!”
The evening concluded with a chance to get racket bags signed and have photos taken with their heroes and their Olympic medals – an evening these young sports men and women will never forget!