Three World titles were to be won on this final day of the 2021 Predator World Junior 9-Ball Championships in Kalgenfurt, Austria. In the morning, the faces of the youngsters warming up for their D-day showed the enormity of what could be achieved. To have their name added to the WPA hall of fame and tohave their name cemented in 9-ball history.
Austria, being the organizing country fared well in the girls’ division. One Austrian semi-final guaranteed one in the final. Kapeller, already having survived a hill-hill decider in the quarterfinal, had yet another one in the semi-final against her compatriot Lena Primus. This time she found herself on the receiving end though, falling victim to Primus’ fighting spirit.The other semi-final was contested between Polish Pawelczyk and Korean Kim. This turned out to be a much more one-sided affair. Kim barraged through to the final with a 9-4 victroy.
The final was what one can expect, filled with great shots, unforced errors and drama. Of the two, Primus was the one keeping her composure best in the first half of the match. What impressed in the second half was firstly the ferocious fightback by Kim, refusing to roll over. Then, when Kim was breathing down Primus’neck, the question was whether the Austrian would be able to withstand the pressure. She did just that and more. It unleashed her true potential and she powered on to victory. 9-7 the victory, a spot in the World 10-ball Championship for women in september here in Klagenfurt, Austria, but most importantly….the title for life, the World Champion 2021.
In the U17 division it was Nehterlands versus Poland. Two young guns, two European champions who have fought it out more than once in the European Championships. Jastrzab from poland the reigning European 8-ball Champion, Dutch Pongers the current European 9-ball Champion. The were favourites to make it to the final from day one, but it had by no means been easy. Pongers beat wildcard Rompanen from Finland in the semi-final with the narrowest of margins. Jastrzab beat young Japanese Oda by a score of 9-7. Young Oda, it must be said, won the hearts of the fans with his stroke, his demeanour and table presence. What a character and player…but this time he would have to settle for bronze.
The final was a lopsided affair. Where after an error-strewn opening phase, Jastrzab clicked into gear, Pongers continued to struggle with the shotclock, his gameplan and his timing. Little mistakes did Jastrzab need from his Nederland-opponent, who looked dim and down in the chair. The Polish Champion put on a clinic and showed the world what a classy player he is. Textbook perfect alignemtn and cue-action and truly a perfect temperament for our game. Hail Dominik, the World U17 Champion!!
In the U19-final, with German Neuhausen and Polish Kural battling it out, the title-fight had even more gravity than the two previous finals. Neuhausen was the U17 World Champion two years ago, winning today meant he could join an even more elite group. Kural, after Jastrzab earlier, could become World Champion and thus the second on the day for Poland. On a sidenote, Riley Adkins became only the fourth US-medalist in a Junior World Championship ever. He fell prey to Kural in the semi-final with a clear scoreline of 11-5. Riley is learning the trade from his father Dee, who is a former All Around Champion at the Derby City Classic.
Neuhausen was the favourite in this final. The final was for him to lose more than for Kural to win, so was the thought of many. The German has more experience and therefore more composure in the pressure-packed arena. That is a big burden, a lot of weight to carry. He was not flawless in the opening phase, but exactly that experience and composure seemed to prove the difference. After another missed opportunity by Kural, Neuhausen looked to extend his lead to 5-1. But as Neuhausen failed to convert, a different script was put to paper. Kural from Krakow sensed fragility, managed to put his own into perspective and started to look the better player of the two. Once Kural levelled the score and put his neck in front a couple of times, it looked like hill-hill was written allover this final. It was 6-6, 7-7 and 8-8.
Krakow, or Poland for that matter started believing their boy could go all the way and secure a second gold on the day. The shift in the way this match evolved helped Neuhausen. No longer the clear favourite, no longer the thought about how it should be…pure survival. He managed to produce a solid and robust 10 minutes at the right time. He pulled away and finish clinically to clinch his second World title. It reminds of the saying:”Soccer is 90 minutes 11 against 11 and then the Germans win”. He came with it when it was needed the most and that is what champions do. It was the last Junior World Championship for young Moritz and he looks well on his way to follow the footsteps of many iconic compatriots that have gone before him: Ortmann, Souquet, Hohmann, Filler.
And so this festival in Klagenfurt comes to an end. Predator and its team have fueled the engine for the growth of the sport. They have brought great pool to the audience with a triple-A production and a beautifully suspenseful shootout-format. We, the people, crave for more of the same. Lastly, this would not have been possible without the commitment of the local organizers, the volunteers and the billiard-loving community of Klagenfurt. We all leave for home tired, satisfied and very much looking forward to the next gathering.
Let Pool be the winner always.