by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Listed at no.9 on the current Under 18 Girls’ World Rankings, the leading player beyond the boundaries of Asia, Romania’s Adina Diaconu is on the brink of setting a record which may never be broken.
Already, before a ball is hit in anger, the 17 year old is arguably the most successful female player in the history of the tournament.
She is the only player to have won the Cadet Girls’ Singles and the Junior Girls’ Singles titles, each on two occasions. In 2013 in Ostrava and the following year in Riva del Garda, she was crowned Cadet Girls’ Singles champion; in 2015 in Bratislava and last year in Zagreb, she stood proudly on the top step of the podium when the Junior Girls’ Singles event had concluded.
No other female player can match that record. The nearest is three such titles achieved by five players, of whom three are Romanian, a testament to that country’s coaching structure.
Olga Nemes won the Cadet Girls’ Singles title in 1981 in Topolcany, before starting in 1983 reaching the Junior Girls’ Singles final on three consecutive occasions. She won in 1983 in Malmö and in 1985 in The Hague but in 1984, in Linz, was beaten in the final by Ukraine’s Elena Kovtun, in those days representing the Soviet Union.
Likewise, under her maiden name, Daniela Dodean won the Cadet Girls’ Singles title in 2002 in Moscow, before in 2005 in Prague and in 2006 in Sarajevo securing Junior Girls’ Singles gold. Four years later, Bernadette Szocs followed the same pattern. She won the Cadet Girls’ Singles event in 2010 in Istanbul; she then followed with Junior Girls’ Singles success in 2011 in Kazan and in the immediate ensuing year in Schwechat.
The remaining members of the three club are Hungary’s Gabriella Wirth and Ukraine’s Margaryta Pesotska; the achievement of the former being somewhat different. Gabriella Wirth won the Cadet Girls’ Singles title in Louvain la Neuve in 1986 and retained the title in 1987 in Athens; in 1989 in Luxembourg she emerged successful in the Junior Girls’ Singles event.
Conversely, Margaryta Pesotska is in line with her Romanian counterparts. She donned the Cadet Girls’ Singles crown in 2006 in Sarajevo, before in consecutive years, being crowned Junior Girls’ Singles champion. She won in 2008 in Terni, in 2009 in Prague.
Outstanding records but in the early years of the tournament, in order to secure three such titles, a player would have had to achieve the goal that beckons Adina Diaconu in Guimarães. No player has ever won the Junior Girls’ Singles title on three occasions.
The European Youth Championships was first staged in 1955 in Stuttgart; since that date with the exception of 1960, 1963 and 1964 when the tournament was not staged, the event has been held annually.
In 1966, the Cadet Boys’ Singles and Cadet Girls’ Singles events were held for the first time when the tournament was staged in Szombathely; the events were not held in Vejle the following year but re-appeared in 1968 in St. Petersburg and have been present ever since that date.
Three Junior Girls’ Singles titles never achieved; notably one player has ever won three Junior Boys’ Singles titles at the European Youth Championships.
Sweden’s Jan-Ove Waldner won in 1981 in Topolcany, 1982 in Hollanbrun and in 1983 in Malmö but he never won the Cadet Boys’ Singles title; in 1979 in Rome and the following year in Poland, he was the runner up.
Adina Diaconu is already one step ahead of the player many regard as the greatest of them all.