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Euro badminton: for the 2024 Paris Olympics, everything is at stake now

Now or never.

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Euro badminton: for the 2024 Paris Olympics, everything is at stake now

Now or never. While the ladies' doubles formed by Margot Lambert and Anne Tran as well as the mixed doubles composed of Delphine Delrue and Thom Gicquel - both already qualified for Paris 2024 - will line up for this European Championship without pressure other than that of shining, most of the other representatives of French badminton will play their Olympic future in Saarbrück, Germany.

Unlike table tennis where the Lebrun brothers - Félix and Alexis - will have the opportunity to compete together in singles (if Alexis manages to stay ahead of Simon Gauzy in the world rankings), in badminton, the Popov siblings quickly understood that only one of both will obtain his ticket to compete in the singles. To be two, they would have had to jointly enter the Top 16 in the world. However, Christo Popov is in 20th place and Toma Junior in 23rd and even shining together during the European Championship, that will not be enough. They will therefore have to decide between themselves in Sarrebrück, with a significant advantage for the youngest.

Strengthened in particular by his accession to the last four of the All England in March, Christo Popov has a small safety margin of almost 300 points, which means that with an equal result, he will retain the advantage. Opposed from the start to his compatriot Alex Lanier for a 100% French confrontation that is never easy to tackle, Christo Popov has a fairly open field until the semi-finals. Which will be less the case for Toma Junior, who could fall on a bone in the quarter-finals with the Dane Magnus Johannesen. Not to mention a half against the current world number 1, Viktor Axelsen. A definite advantage for Christo Popov, both from an accounting point of view and in terms of the table for this Euro.

In women's singles, the situation is much clearer. Currently 51st in the world, Xuefei Qi only needs two victories at the Euro to be assured of being the French representative in Paris 2024, as was the case in Tokyo three years ago. And if she only passed one round, her pursuer Léonice Huet (70th) would need nothing more and nothing less than winning the Euro. Which appears more than unlikely. For Xuefei Qi, the most important thing about this European Championship will be to “give your best and try to beat everyone”, as she confided to Le Figaro last week. “I didn’t think any further than that. Besides, I don't want to think too much or put pressure on myself. I just want to have no regrets and then we'll see what happens..."

Often declining physically in recent years, the French number 1, aged 32, has only too often been able to evolve at her real level. “All these physical problems gave me a headache,” she says. “When you arrive on the pitch knowing that you are not 100% at all, it is complicated and frustrating. But if I focus on the positive, I tell myself that this situation forced me to find solutions to better manage this on a mental level. And now I know I can't train as much as I did when I was young. I put in place a schedule adapted to my physique.” Before concluding: “In Tokyo it didn’t go very well because of my knee. I have a very complicated memory of it, between the joy of participating in my first Games and the lack of pleasure I had on the field due to this injury. So, I can’t wait to experience the Games in Paris.”

Everything will be decided in Saarbrück to know which men's doubles will represent France during the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Having returned to the front a week ago after their semi-final in Madrid, the Popov brothers have since seen the tandem composed of Lucas Corvée and Ronan Labar put them back in front thanks to their final victory during a tournament played in Kazakhstan. A tournament in which Corvée and Labar took part in disaster, with the ambition of grabbing a few small points to maintain the advantage at the Euro. Suddenly, the situation is clear: if Toma Junior and Christo Popov do not manage to go one lap further than their rivals, they will survive the Games. But if the Popovs manage to go just one lap further, then the balance will tip in their favor at the last minute. And who knows, why not dream of a European final between the two pairs to decide between them in the most beautiful way, given that the draw placed them in each of the two halves of the table...

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