08 Dec 2019

It has taken time, it has taken a long time, in fact it has taken 38 years but at last it happened; a player from the host nation won an individual event at the Finlandia Open.

First staged in 1981, on Sunday 8th December in Lohja, Benedek Olah secured the men’s singles title.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Notably powerful from the backhand, in 2016 the winner in Lagos on the ITTF World Tour, after accounting for Spain’s Martin Pintos (11-6, 12-10, 11-9, 11-0), Switzerland’s Doria Girod (11-3, 11-5, 11-2, 11-5) and Israel’s Tal Israeli (11-9, 11-5, 8-11, 14-12, 11-8) to reach the later stages Benedek Olah continued his single minded determined approach.

He overcame Sweden’s Per Sandström (10-12, 14-12, 11-7, 11-5, 11-5), Switzerland’s Lionel Weber (9-11, 11-9, 11-3, 15-13, 7-11, 11-8) and Japan’s Koyo Kanamitsu (11-5, 11-4, 3-11, 15-13, 11-5) to secure the title.

Lionel Weber beat Kaito Yoshida, like Koyo Kanamitsu from Japan (6-11, 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 11-13, 11-8) to gain third place.

The men’s singles final: Koyo Kanamitsu (left) versus (right) Benedek Olah (Photo: Heikki Kiiskinen)
Esko Heikkinen delighted

Watching the final and delighted with the result was Esko Heikkinen, Chair of the Finnish Table Tennis Association.

“Olah started the final with powerful backhands and won the first two games rapidly. In the third, the Japanese began to play more on Olah’s forehand and the match turned momentarily. An important fourth game went to Olah, even though the Japanese led 10-8. After that, the fifth game was more a formality. A huge roar at the end of the match from Olah, the pressure released, the relief of victory.” Esko Heikkinen

Benedek Olah (left) beat (right) Lionel Weber to book his place in the final (Photo: Heikki Kiiskinen)
French League

Success for Benedek Olah, who is born and bred Finnish but currently lives in Budapest and plays in the French League, was well aware that he joins illustrious names on the roll of honour.

“It’s pretty great to be Finlandia Open’s first Finnish winner ever. My own name on the same trophy with names like Jan-Ove Waldner and Liu Guoliang!” Benedek Olah.

Liu Guoliang won in 1993, Jan-Ove Waldner in 1995; in those days the tournament was held every two years and in the traditional format. Nowaday, it is very different; the progressive knock-out formula gives every player in each of the men’s singles and women’s singles events, some six or seven matches.

Avid spectators watched from the balcony as Roman Klecker officiated the men’s singles final between Benedek Olah (nearest camera) and Kojo Kanamitsu (Photo: Heikki Kiiskinen)
System applauded

It is a system that gained the applause of Ulf “Tickan” Carlsson, the coach who guided Sweden to gold at the World Team Championships in 2000 in Kuala Lumpur and more recently to bronze in 2018 in Halmstad. Now the national coach for Norway, he had no doubts about the benefits of the tournament.

“We absolutely need these kinds of competitions.” Ulf “Tickan” Carlsson

A first for Finland, the success of Benedek Olah rather overshadowed the fact that it was also a first for Australia! Liu Yanhzi won the women’s singles event.

Medallists in the women’s singles event (left to right) Yuki Sanjo, Liu Yanhzi, Shoko Yamamoto (Photo: Heikki Kiiskinen)
Liu Yanhzi

She accounted for the host nation’s Sofia Erkheikki (11-4, 11-5, 11-4, 11-5), before ousting Sweden’s Erika Fronth (11-9, 11-5, 11-7, 11-8) to reached the later rounds where the good form continued. She overcame Iran’s Mahshid Ashtari (11-6, 11-3, 11-2, 11-7), followed by success against Katsiaryna Baravok of Belarus (11-9, 11-8, 11-6, 11-7) and Japan’s Yuki Sanjo to seal the title (10-12, 12-14, 11-8, 11-9, 4-11, 11-6, 11-3).

Also from Japan, Shoko Yamamoto defeated Katsiaryna Baravok (7-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-5, 11-6) to gain third place.

Overall 118 men and 78 women competed in Lohja.

Benedek Olah, a bolt from the blue (Photo: Heikki Kiiskinen)

 

2019 Finlandia Open: Results – Men’s Singles & Women’s Singles

2019 Finlandia Open: Results – Men’s Team (Friday 6th December)

2019 Finlandia Open: Results – Women’s Team (Friday 6th December)

2019 Finlandia Open: Entries & seeding

2019 Finlandia Open: Team Event Draw

2019 Finlandia Open: Local Website

2019 Finlandia Open: Roll of Honour

 

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