BRANDENBURG - A ten day marathon came to an end on Sunday, and the Stahlpalast closed its doors. No fewer than 500 billiard players had made an appearance, more than 800 matches had been played. Belgium came out on top of the medal list, as the most successful country.
In the opening days, all eyes were on the 3-cushion individual, probably the most prestigious European title to be won every other year. A young and talented Spaniard, David Martinez, found himself in the company of three big stars: Marco Zanetti, Frédéric Caudron and Dick Jaspers. This foursome made up the semifinals, and everybody's thoughts went back to 2013 and the historic semi between Caudron and Zanetti.
Caudron booked his ticket for the final when he beat Jaspers, 40-30 in 19 innings. Zanetti had about the same margin over Martinez: 40-29 in 23. So the former Agipi teammates would meet again, and it turned out to be a strangely one-sided match. Zanetti started extremely well and took a 29-1 lead. Caudron never really got into the match, and helped by five runs of seven no less, Zanetti reached the finish line in 11 innings: 40-14.
,,I have played my best final ever, it feels fantastic'', said a joyous Zanetti.
Another highly anticipated event was the 1-cushion discipline, and it was given the dream final between the two best players in the world: Caudron and de Bruijn. The Dutchman ruled supreme from 2001 to 2007, but in the past decade it was mostly Caudron who won the decisive matches. This time was no different (120 - 63 in 6), and the Belgian title holder won his 9th European crown. The podium was completed by Raul Cuenca from Spain and Raymund Swertz from the Netherlands.
The 3-cushion event for national teams was played in the Scotch Double format again, and the title holders (Jaspers and Burgman) once again reached the final after a comfortable win over Denmark. The other semi, between Greece and Turkey, proved to be a lot more memorable. Greece built up an enormous lead (30-9 after 15 innings, but Tayfun Tasdemir and Can Capak mounted an impressive comeback. Seven innings later, they had completely turned the match around, winning it 40-33 in 22.
In the balkline disciplines, there were two finals of fantastic quality. Raul Cuenca never made a mistake against Dave Christiani in the 71/2. The Dutchman ran 8 points from the break, and Cuenca made 200 in the first inning. he was a very emotional winner, but everyone could see that he cried happy tears.
The 47/2 final was even better, if that is possible. Both players ran a perfect 250 in the first inning, Leppens doing it first in a calm manner, Swertz equalizing at breakneck speed. A shootout was necessary, and Leppens thought he had lost the title when he made only two points. Swertz missed the break, and the Belgian won the European title.
The 5-pins discipline was still an almost entirely Italian affair, with 7 of the 8 quarterfinalists from that country. The game may be played in Denmark, Switzerland and France, and picking up speed in Germany and the Netherlands, but it will take some time before the Italians lose their edge.
The title in 3-cushion on the small table was won by 37-year old Radovan Hajek, an airconditioning mechanic from Ostrava in the Czech Republic. The title holder, Kenny Miatton from Belgium, was beaten in the final: 40-26 in 25. Favorites like Eddy Merckx, Birol Uymaz and Ahmet Bayatli had been eliminated earlier.
The classic encounter between Frédéric Caudron and Eddy Merckx, on the small table for a change, was the highlight of the last day. For these two Belgians, playing 3-cushion on a 2.10 table is like Formula 1 racing on a kart track. The kiss is the main enemy on the small table, other than that, the game has few secrets. Eddy Merckx had already excelled with a run of 18, earlier in the club event, and Caudron now finished his quarterfinal with a run of 16. He won the Belgian clash thanks to runs of 12 (1st inning) and 17 (3d inning), leading the match 35-0 after four innings and finishing his one-man show 40-11 in 6.
De Goeie Queue met Andernos in the final, and showed its superiority. Frédéric Caudron beat Roland Forthomme 40-12 in 11 innings, Jean Paul de Bruijn got past Thibaut Espada with a 40-26 in 19.
The artistic players were quite evenly matched this year, with many matches going the maximum five sets. Walter Bax from Belgium won his semifinal against young talent Jop de Jong from the Netherlands, and Serdar Gümüs from Turkey, the title holder, got the better of Jean Reverchon from France. In the final, a visibly nervous Bax had match point in the fourth set, but he missed and had to concede a fifth set to Gümüs. The Turk took full advantage, and won his second title.
20-year old Spaniard Carlos Anguita from Los Naranjos won the 3-cushion event under 21. In the final, he beat Frenchman Adrien Tachoire 30-18 in 23. For the reigning Spanish champion, it was the best victory in his young career. Two years ago, he ended third in the European championship.
The Dutch promise Sam van Etten (20) was head and shoulders the best player in the free game under 21. The tall guy from Noord Holland won two of his three matches in a single inning. The final, against Belgian Stefan van Hees took three innings, and it ended 300-17. It was van Etten' s second win in this discipline, he will now transfer to the seniors.
16-year old Frenchman Maxime Panaia won his second consecutive gold in the 3-cushion under 17, on the small table. His final against Italy's Alessio d'Agata had an exciting finish. It ended 30-30 (in 26), and the first shootout ends 1-1.D'Agata then starts with four, and Panaia runs a winning five. During the award ceremony, the young French talent was draped in his national flag.
The European title for club teams in the free game went to BC Oissel from France, with BC Horna from the Netherlands coming in second, BC De Coeck from Belgium third.
Bryan Eelen from Belgium won the title in the free game under 17. He beat Dutchman Leon Dudink in the final: 200-49 in 5 innings.
CEB chairman Bennie Deegens had the last word in Brandenburg. He announced that the mega-event will return to the city in 2019.
The top ten of the medal ranking:
1 Belgium, 4 gold, 4 silver, 1 bronze
2 Italy, 4-2-3
3 France, 2-2-3
4 Spain, 2-0-6
5 Turkey, 2-0-2
6 Netherlands, 1-6-4
7 Czech, 1-0-1
8 Germany, 0-4-5
9 Denmark, 0-1-2
10 Switzerland, 0-0-2.