Nov 11, 2021


Venezia Palace Hotel, Antalya, Turkey – Thursday 11th November



THE 2021 EUROPEAN POOL CHAMPIONSHIPS wrapped up after 11 glorious daysof sport at the Venezia Palace Hotel in Antalya, Turkey. 9-ball was thefinal discipline as four divisions played out and there was plenty ofdrama, most of it centring on the men’s division as Joshua Filler tookthe gold in an extraordinary finale.

Margarita Fefilova took women’s gold to add to her silver and bronzemedals while Finnish wheelchair legend Jouni Tahti finally got his handson a trophy after two near-misses this year. In the men’s Under23tournament, Serbian Aleksa Pecelj won gold to confirm his potential inthe game.

THERE WERE 97 players competing in the Men’s division, and it was astacked field with the best in Europe fighting it out for the finalgold. Joshua Filler found himself on the one-loss side but came throughwith his normal relaxed style. He squeezed past Niels Feijen in adecider in the quarter-finals before relegating Poland’s SebastianBatkowski to a bronze medal in the semi.

His final opponent, Sanjin Pehlivanovic of Bosnia Herzegovina, made thequarter-finals with a string of comfortable wins before beating seasonedSpaniard Francisco Diaz-Pizarro 9-4 to meet Pijus Labutis in the lastfour. He overcame the Lithuanian to give himself a great shot at thetitle.

Pehlivanovic dominated the scoring, leading 4-1 in the early stages.Filler got back to level terms at 4-4 before his opponent then kept aone rack lead with his break. With the Bosnian on the hill at 8-7,Filler was running out to tie it up but found himself in an awkwardposition with three balls left on the table.

Shooting the 7 ball with the 9-ball blocking his path up table to theblack 8, Filler made the pot and left himself a long but fine cut on the8 ball but made a mess of it and left the 8 available for his opponent.

Pehlivanovic took some time and let out a ‘whoop’ and fist pumped as the8 fell, leaving himself with an elementary 9 ball into the corner pocketfor the championship. Incredibly he missed it leaving Filler to knock itin to draw level. The German ‘whooped’ himself when he sat back in hischair, possibly referencing his opponent’s premature celebration but theplayers shook hands as the deciding rack commenced.

There was more disaster for Pehlivanovic as his well-struck break shotsaw the 3-ball into the corner pocket but only one ball made it past theheadstring as he fell foul of the three-point rule, returning the tableto Filler.

It wasn’t the easiest of lay-outs but the highly-decorated German ranout to take the lead for the first time in the match and seal his secondEuropean championship gold.

Filler was understandably shocked at the ending after the match; “I feelamazing! I lost two times before in the 9-ball final already and thisthird time I was meant to lose as well, but he missed a quite easy 9 andcelebrated before and then made an illegal break at 8-8 and I could runit out. On the one hand, I already knew I’d lost and on the other hand Iwas holding the trophy. Crazy!

“Every match in the whole tournament I think I was down but I just keptfighting and I knew I didn’t want to give up. I knew if I got to thefinal, I would qualify for the World Games next year and that was mygoal. I was just giving everything to win this tournament and it paidoff luckily!”

Medals – Men

Gold –          Joshua Filler (GER)Silver –        Sanjin Pehlivanovic (BIH)Bronze -        Sebastian Batkowski (POL)                Pijus Labutis (LIT)

MARGARITA FEFILOVA capped a tremendous visit to the 2021 EuropeanChampionship as she won the final gold in the 9-ball division to add tothe silver and bronze won in 8 ball and 10 ball respectively. TheBelarusian closed her championship out with a 7-3 win over Germany’sVeronika Ivanovskaia for the gold medal.

For the 24 year-old rising star from Minsk, Belarus it was her firstever EC gold and most likely to be the first of many. Her victory wasn’twithout its set-backs as she was relegated to the one-loss side early onfollowing a 7-5 defeat at the hands of Kristina Tkach (Russia) in hersecond match of the tournament. She fought through to the quarter-finalswhere she defeated Tina Vogelmann (Germany) 7-2 before beating hercompatriot Melanie Sussenguth by the same scoreline.

Her opponent in the final, Veronika Ivanovskaia, an EC 8 ball goldmedallist in 2018, beat Dutch star Tamara Rademakers to make the roundof 16 and then victories over Louis Furberg (Sweden) and Ina Kaplan gother in the medals.

A potentially tough match against 10 ball champion Eyllul Kibaroglu waswell negotiated before an in-form Fefilova put paid to her gold medalhopes.

Commented Fefilova, “To be honest I still can’t believe it. It feelsunreal! I’ve been working so hard for this and coming to the tournamentI didn’t feel confident at all. Then in the 10-ball and 8-ball I gotthird and then second and then everyone was joking around saying now youhave to come first in the 9-ball.

“I built confidence and peaked my game at the semi-finals and final atexactly the moment I needed it. It’s very tough because in thistournament you’ve got to have it all. Good run-outs, confidence, alittle bit of luck and everything goes against you sometimes even whenyou’re so prepared.  I’m happy that finally the hard work paid off andit’s really special.”

Fefilova also booked her spot at next year’s World Games taking place atBirmingham, Alabama. USA.

Medals – Ladies

Gold –          Margareta Fefilova (BLR)Silver –        Veronika Ivanovskaia (GERBronze –        Eyllul Kibaroglu (TUR)                Melanie Sussenguth (GER)

IT WAS GOLD at last for Finland’s Jouni Tahti, 53, as he recovered fromtwo final defeats to bounce back and claim the title in the finaldiscipline of the championship. It’s fair to say that the veteran Finnhas been the dominant force in wheelchair pool over the past 20 yearsand this was his incredible 27th gold medal at the EuropeanChampionships.

With his nemesis this week, Henrik Larsson, eliminated earlier in theproceedings, Tahti was on song throughout, only dropping five racks onhis way to the final. His opponent in the championship match wasSlovenia’s Matej Brajkovic, who in contrast to Tahti, was in his firstever final.

He gave it a go and was well-placed in the closing stages but Tahti,drawing on his wealth of experience pulled away for a terrific 7-5 win.

Tahti said, “I’m running out of room in the house for trophies, they’rein every room! My goal now is to train very hard and try and get threegold medals next year in Slovenia but I really want to be there andcompeting at the 2023 European Championships in Tampere in my homecountry”

Medals – Wheelchair

Gold –          Jouni Tahti (FIN);Silver –        Matej Brajkovic (SLO)Bronze –        Kim-Ronny Nygard (NOR)                David Slacek (SLO)

YOUNG SERBIAN Aleksa Pecelj ended a fabulous stay in Turkey as he closedout the championships with the gold medal in the Men’s Under 23division. He defeated Turkish Cypriot Osman Sanlisoy 9-4 in thechampionship match. Earlier he had claimed bronze in the 8-ball divisionand prior to that, had come from nowhere to take runner-up spot on theEuro Tour in the same venue two weeks ago.

There were 20 players competing at the end of a long, hard week but itwas Pecelj who had the energy and will to see it home and win Serbia’sfirst ever European Championship gold medal.

Turkish Northern Cyprus took another medal, this time silver in theshape of Sanlisoy and it will be interesting to see if they can build onthese successes in future years.

Pecelj was ecstatic post-match; “Im thrilled, to be honest. I wasplaying at a high level the whole tournament. I played the Euro Tourfinal and didn’t manage to win it. Then I was fighting back, losing allthe time, making comebacks and finally at the end I got a trophy so I’mreally happy about it.

“The young players here are all very hungry so I think the establishedplayers need a lot of motivation and if you lose focus and concentrationfor just a second, the young guys are there chasing you like lions.

“This is the first gold medal for Serbia in the history of EuropeanChampionships and I’m very happy to be the first one. There will be abig celebration when I get home starting at the airport!”

Medals – Men’s U23

Gold –          Aleksa Pecelj (SRB)Silver –        Osman Sanlisoy (TNC)Bronze –        Mark Magi (EST)                Jere Virtaranta (FIN)

All the matches can be viewed live at www.kozoom.com

Results, live scoring and draw are available at www.epbf.com

Luke Riches on behalf of the EPBF.

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