Rafał Wilowski (P7D) travelled south to Guildford in Surrey to compete in the British National Racketlon Championships on May 30th and was delighted to finish as the U13 runner-up in a field of 11.
In racketlon you play your opponent at table tennis, badminton, squash and tennis. Once one of you reaches 21 points in a discipline you move on to the next, keeping a cumulative points score along the way. At the end the winner is the player with more points overall.
You can win a match without having to go on to the tennis if you are already leading by 22 points after squash.
Rafał’s strengths are table tennis and badminton, and in his first round match he was far enough ahead after squash to have won. However, the second round match was as close as it could be.
He was up against Islay Thornicroft from England, the only girl in the U13s and a very strong squash and tennis player. Their strengths and weaknesses balanced each other out. Rafał dominated the first two events, leading 21-1, 21-5 going into squash. Islay quickly clawed back points, winning the squash 21-4.
Rafał went into the tennis needing only 3 points to win but knowing that it might not be simple. In windy conditions on hard courts with high bounce, both competitors played a safe waiting game keeping the ball in play and waiting for the other to make an error.
Rafał just couldn’t break Islay’s dominance. From 1-1, Islay raced ahead; Rafał scraped one further point but Islay got to 21-2 to level the match on points, 48-48 overall.
In racketlon, the match is then decided on a single, sudden death, tennis point, known as the gummi arm point (apparently derived from Swedish for rubber arm, as the server’s arm may wobble with nerves!).
Rafał steeled himself to serve for a place in the British final, got the ball into play and kept his cool until a return from Islay went just long. Rafał was relieved to get through.
In the final he was up against England’s James Gibbins, who is a year older and finished 5th in last year’s World championships. James had disposed of several tough challengers en route and his half of the draw had looked stronger than Rafał’s, so Rafał set himself the realistic objective of winning the table tennis element and then just enjoying the rest.
That is exactly what happened; Rafał won the table tennis 21-17 and got a respectable 11 points in the badminton, but James was too strong in squash, winning 21-2 so they did not need to go through to tennis.
Rafał enjoyed the competition and was very happy to return home with the silver medal.