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Looking back on the victory of the French Girls Team at the European Youth Team Championships held in Tromsø

This year, the European Youth Team Championships took place in Tromsø, Norway, from 18th to 25th July. The French Girls Team, led by Jérôme Rombaut, managed to retain its European crown and so celebrates its second title win. We may recall that the “Ladies” also won the World Championships in the period in between the European events!

Jérôme Rombaut goes back over the Tromsø Championships.

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Our group was made up of:

Anne-Laure Huberschwiller – 25 years old, from Thiais, a bridge teacher.

Jennifer Mourges – 24 years old, from Mont de Marsan, a bridge teacher.

Solène Thépaut-Ventos – 24 years old, from Paris, holder of an “agrégation” in mathematics.

Sarah Combescure – 18 years old, from Lyon, an accounting student.

Anaïs Leleu – 18 years old, from Lille, a student at Sciences-Po Paris.

Mathilde Thuillez – 18 years old, from Paris, a first-year medical student.

The Championships were held in Tromsø, a city located at the very north of Norway, nearly at the same latitude as Greenland! At that time of the year, there are only 20 minutes of darkness per day because it is the summer season. In other words, we continuously enjoyed the sunshine and often had trouble sleeping.

Six teams among the best ones in the world were present at these Championships. On top of France, the title-holder, the most formidable contenders on paper were the Netherlands, Poland and Italy. In theory, Norway and Hungary had a lower level but we had to keep a careful eye on Norway, a team which is currently making significant progress.

Our goal was to win a medal. Since we were the title-holder, we could legitimately go for gold, but with three very young players and a novice, it seemed complicated at this level. The other favourite teams were all made up of players from national ladies teams, which is not the case for ours yet (but for how long?).

The three pairs had to perform their best if we wanted to achieve an excellent result.

Overall, we played three matches per day because we played four times versus each team, i.e. more than in all other categories!

The last match was pre-calculated to try to make the team placed first play versus the team placed second, and the team placed third play versus the team placed fourth. We knew that this last match could certainly be decisive in determining the colours of the medals.

We started the Championships effortlessly on the first day:

  • A 7/13 narrow defeat vs the Netherlands
  • A 19/1 win vs Norway
  • A 20/0 win vs Hungary

It was a good start as we had “scored” well against the teams presumed to be weak. From the 2nd round, however, we played against the three strongest teams. It was a crucial day…

  • A 18/2 win vs Italy
  • A 15/5 win vs Poland
  • A 17/3 win vs the Netherlands

It was a dream day! We were in the lead with more than 1 match to spare (25 points)! We had played only 30% of the matches, certainly, but it already boded well…

  • A 16/4 win vs Norway
  • A 19/1 win vs Hungary
  • A 14/6 win vs Italy

The Championships kept on going well. Each pair did their job and played their best. Solène and Sarah played a bit less than the others, but it made sense since it was their first Championships. And yet, they achieved excellent results. Anne-Laure and Jennifer were very solid players, showing impressive skills. Mathilde and Anaïs transcended themselves once again during the Championships and played unbelievable.

We were almost halfway through the Championships and 35 points ahead of the team placed second!

  • A 7/13 defeat vs Poland

Here are the rankings after ten matches, i.e. halfway through the competition:

1FRANCE150.42
2NETHERLANDS115.55
3NORWAY103.49
4ITALY102.06
5POLAND100.49
6HUNGARY27.99
  • A 9/11 defeat vs the Netherlands (but we will then play against them one more time only, so that was a good thing)
  • A 19/1 win vs Norway

Only 3 days left…

  • A 14/6 win vs Hungary
  • A 14/6 win vs Italy
  • A 12/8 win vs Poland

After competing three quarters of the event, there were only 5 matches left. It looked promising because two of them were supposed to be easy.

We were 37 points ahead of the team placed second (Poland) and 55 points ahead of the team placed third (Netherlands). We shouldn’t get excited but this was a good omen…

  • A 12/8 win vs Hungary
  • A 6/14 defeat vs Italy
  • A 15/5 defeat vs Norway

All in all, it was a positive day but the Polish Girls excelled themselves to narrow the gap to 30 points. We knew that the last day would be tense.

We played against the team placed third (Netherlands) while Poland played against the team placed last. If they got the maximum number of points possible and we lost our match, they could narrow the gap again to 20 points and since our last match was against them, we would not win the title. So we had to give it our all for this first match.

A 17/3 win versus the Netherlands for the first match helped us secure the title (the Polish team won 20/0 but we were 27 points ahead of them).

The 5/15 defeat versus Poland for the last match is anecdotal. We won these European Championships by taking the lead almost from beginning (3rd match) to end.

The Netherlands went to pieces at the end of the Championships, while Poland, which had been unsuccessful at the beginning, regained its status.

Final rankings:

1FRANCE272.19
2POLAND256.21
3ITALY223.56
4NETHERLANDS195.60
5NORWAY180.37
6HUNGARY70.07

 

Once again, I am very proud of “my” Girls! Unfortunately, one of them is going to leave the team. Again. Indeed, Anne-Laure has reached the age limit. As happens every year, I’m thinking that it will be difficult to replace her but I also count on the youngest ones who keep on making progress and who will become real mainstays in the future.

See you at the next World Championships in Salsomaggiore, Italy, from 3rd to 13th August 2016!

Jérôme Rombaut.