In a historic performance, Mauritius (BWF home page) clinched their first Continental Team Championship in 15 years, wresting the collective crown 3-2 from title-holders, South Africa, in a tense finale. Having already upset Nigeria 3-0 in the semi-finals, the Mauritians came from behind to thwart South Africa’s repeat bid, winning the last two ties – Women’s Singles and Women’s Doubles – to spark joyous celebrations in their camp.
The likes of Kate Foo Kune, Yeldy Louison, Nicolas Chan Lam and Julien Paul produced the goods for their country in a classic showdown which closed the first half of the badminton competition for the 11th All-Africa Games 2015 in Republic of the Congo.
The finals started with Mixed Doubles as South Africans Andries Malan/Jennifer Fry opposed Julien Paul/Kate Foo Kune. Arguably the underdogs, the younger Mauritian pair took the first game, thanks to a strong display by Paul. However, Malan and Fry struck back, 21-15 in the second game, to gain the ascendancy. Unfortunately for South Africa, Paul and Foo Kune showed greater composure and maturity to seal the final game, 21-17.
Next was Men’s Singles and current African champion, Jacob Maliekal of South Africa, wasted little time disposing of Christopher Paul. The Mauritian lost 21-10 21-9 in just 25 minutes.
At that stage the overall tie was 1-1 and it then tipped in favour of the defending champions as Malan returned to partner Wiaan Viljoen in Men’s Doubles (above). Despite some promising early exchanges, there was no doubt South Africa would win as Malan/Viljoen brushed aside Mauritius’ young gun, Julien Paul and Atish Lubah, 21-14 and 21-11.
The tide turned again here, with Mauritius fighting back valiantly - first through Nicki Chan Lam in Women’s Singles. She quickly downed Elme De Villiers, 21-10 and 21-9, to set up a grand climax to the team battle; the result depending on the outcome of the Women’s Doubles clash.
It was left to Yeldy Louison and Kate Foo Kune of Mauritius or Jennifer Fry and Sandra Le Grange from South Africa.
Who would prevail?
Ultimately, it was Mauritius who triumphed with Louison and Foo Kune holding their nerves to win the first game 21-19 before cantering away with the second, 21-7.
Team Final - Result
South Africa, who could only watch as Mauritius savoured their success, rebounded smartly in the individual competition which followed at the Étienne-Monga gymnasium in Ouenzé. They swept to gold in Men’s Singles, Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles, with Malan notching double gold. In Mixed Doubles, he and Jennifer Fry overcame their elder team-mates Wiaan Viljoen and Michelle Emmet-Butler, 21-17 and 23-21. Malan also won a third consecutive Men’s Doubles title with Viljoen against El Khateeb and Kashkal of Egypt.
“We played the Egyptians in the Team Event and we knew it would not be easy as we had a tough match against them but eventually we pulled through,” said Malan.
Meanwhile, Maliekal won an impressive fourth consecutive African title, beating his compatriot Prakash Vijayanath, 21-17 and 21-17, in the Men's Singles final.
Kate Foo Kune (left) continued her impressive form, retaining the Women’s Singles title versus Nigeria’s Grace Gabriel. Having won the African Championship last year in Botswana, the Mauritian was keen to continue her continental reign and did just that with a 21-16 21-19 triumph.
“It’s always more pressure on you when you are defending your title as everybody expects you to win. I managed to keep my nerves and win the gold medal again. Unfortunately, in the Women’s Doubles, we could not retain our title as we made too many unforced errors,” noted Foo Kune, referring to the earlier doubles final in which she played.
In that Women’s Doubles showdown, Seychellois duo Julliette Ah Wan and Alissen Camille (above) avenged last year’s defeat against Foo Kune and Louison. Ah Wan and Camille emerged champions, 22-20 18- 21 and 21-14.
Individual Finals - Results