Racketwho? I know what many of you may be thinking, but bear with me while I explain everything. By the end, you may just be the newest Racketlon fan. I know I am, after speaking to Dutchman Jacob de Vries, who is currently in 14th place in the Veterans category of the world rankings of Racketlon.
What is Racketlon?
The origins of Racketlon can be traced back to the middle of the 80s in Finland, where four racket federations met to develop a game they called mailapelit (racket games), which combines tennis, squash, badminton and table tennis.
A Racketlon match contains four sets, one in each sport. Each set is played to 21 points, much like in table tennis, but the total winner of a Racketlon match is not the one who wins most sets, but the one that scores the most points in total. Essentially, the winner is the best all round racket player.
National championships have been held since the beginning, the first being the Finnish Championships in 1986. The popularity of the sport grew quickly, with more than 400 competitors taking part today. In 1989, Sweden hosted a national championship of their own, but they had no idea about the game in Finland. It was only after several years of activity that they realised the similarities of their respective sport. They decided to join forces and the Finnish rules were adopted by the Swedes. From then on, the sport has evolved and continues to expand. Some countries still have a different scoring system but, for the most part, the “first to 21” rule applies.
The internationalisation of Racketlon
A significant step towards the internationalisation of Racketlon was taken in the autumn of 2001, when the first international Racketlon tournament took place. The Gothenburg Racketlon World Open was played in Gothenburg, Sweden, in November 2001, with six countries taking part. This was when the Finnish and Swedish Racketlon elites first faced each other and the Finns won both the prestigious Men’s and Ladies’ elite classes and a final victory in the Men’s Veteran class. Since then, one milestone after another has been reached, and today there are more than 50,000 registered players in the world.
This year marked the sixth World Racketlon Championships, which took place in Belgium and, for the first time ever, there was a Portuguese team! In total, 23 countries took part and Mikko Kärkkäinen from Finland was bestowed with the title of World Champion.
The players for the Portuguese team did extremely well, considering they had only a few training sessions prior to the competition and it was their first time on the international stage. The team was made up of Luís Barbosa (a Portuguese squash champion), João Couto (a former Davis Cup tennis player), Vitor Inácio, António Morais, André Silva, Catarina Silva and, of course, Jacob de Vries.
The future of Racketlon in Portugal
Jacob has invited the president of the Racketlon Federation Worldwide, Marcel Weigl, to the Algarve, in July, to discuss plans to open a Racketlon Centre in the region. He feels this will aid the popularity of the sport and improve Portugal’s world ranking, as there will be a greater choice of raw talent to enter the national and international competitions.
According to Jacob, there are investors interested in the project and government funding is possible, as the centre would benefit the community. All that really needs to be done is to find a site large enough. The Portuguese team said they spoke to many other national teams during the world championships in Belgium, asking them what they thought about having the competition in Portugal next year. Most of them were very keen for Portugal to play host to the world championships next year, but we will let you know when a decision has been made.
Racketlon is more than just a combination of the world’s four dominating racket sports. It has developed into a sport in its own right with characteristics, tactics and psychology that is difficult to find anywhere else. It deserves wider attention on an international level.
• Do you think you have what it takes to be a top class Racketlon player? Would you like to know more about Racketlon? Then contact Jacob de Vries via e-mail: [email protected]