2023 DYNAMIC Billard European Seniors Championships: Exciting Finals and New Champions Crowned

Tomasz Bak of Poland (Picture Credit: Azbilliards)

The 2023 DYNAMIC Billard European Seniors Championships concluded today in Lasko, Slovenia, as the final medals found their rightful owners. In a thrilling match, Tomasz Bak of Poland clinched his first-ever European Seniors gold, defeating Germany’s Harald Stolka. Meanwhile, Manuel Pereira of Portugal solidified his position as the top player in the 55-plus category, triumphing over his long-time rival Miroslav Kremenovic of Serbia to secure his second gold medal of the championships. In the women’s division, Ine Helvik emerged victorious, defeating Ulrika Andersson of Sweden and adding a second gold medal to her collection.

In the 45-plus final, Harald Stolka, a double gold medalist at last year’s Championships, initiated the proceedings with a dry break. Tomasz Bak stepped up and demonstrated a confident run-out to claim the opening rack.

A powerful break by Bak pocketed three balls, but his attempt at a 3/5 combination failed. Stolka’s position deteriorated after executing his own combination, but he recovered with a skillful pot along the top rail. However, the cue ball stuck to the 5, and his safety was well executed. Bak’s jump shot made contact but left the 5 available, allowing Stolka to level the match.

Stolka lost control of the table after a hit-and-hope combination, but Bak’s weak safety gave Stolka an excellent opportunity, which he seized to take the lead. An illegal break from Bak gave Stolka the table back, and Bak chose to push out. Once again, Stolka returned the table, leaving a long 1-ball. Unfortunately, the German scratched while playing safe. Bak meticulously worked his way through the balls, equalizing the score at 2-2.

Another illegal break from Stolka left the 1-ball available, and Bak showcased his shot-making skills but fell short on the 2-ball, leaving it hanging at the pocket’s jaws. Stolka capitalized on this, running out to take a 3-2 lead.

Bak made a ball off the break but played a weak safety on the 2-ball. They exchanged safety visits before a remarkable jump shot from Bak resulted in a fluked 3-ball up-table. From this position, Bak completed the run-out to level the match.

Stolka initiated a dry break but left nothing potable. A tremendous break from Bak set up the run-out, and he extended his lead to 5-3. Another illegal break, which left an open rack for his opponent, was a blow to Stolka, and Bak seemed unstoppable until the 7-ball wobbled in the pocket’s jaws, eventually rolling down the top rail. This unfortunate turn of events was heartbreaking for Stolka as Bak took a three-rack lead, making it 6-3.

Bak delivered his first dry break of the match but, fortunately, left no opportunities for Stolka. They exchanged safeties before Bak missed the 1-ball while attempting a two-rail kick. With ball-in-hand, Stolka composed himself and managed to narrow the gap to 6-4.

Stolka slowed down his break shot and appeared to be gaining momentum until a poor positional shot forced him to miss a crucial 9-ball. Bak also missed a tight table-length shot and a table-length bank after Stolka played a safety. Another safety from Stolka gave Bak an opening, and he capitalized on it, reaching the hill with a 7-5 lead.

Breaking for the title, Bak delivered another solid break but failed to pocket a ball. His safety left an opportunity for Stolka, but a thin cut on the 5-ball left it hanging. Bak was six balls away from the gold medal, but he fell short on the 6-ball and missed the forceful shot attempt. Stolka, holding on for dear life, cleared the table to make it 7-6.

Stolka’s subsequent break came up empty, leaving no opportunities for either player. An exceptional snooker from the German granted him ball-in-hand. He maintained his composure, running out to get within one rack of Bak at 7-6.

With his last break of the match, Bak pocketed a ball but left no clear shots, prompting him to push out. Stolka returned the favor, positioning the cue ball up the table from the 2-ball. Stolka hit it too hard, scratching into the bottom left pocket. Although the table posed challenges, Bak kept his nerves steady and completed the run-out to claim the title.

Afterward, Bak expressed his joy, stating, “I’m incredibly happy. I never even dreamt about this. Despite some bad luck with the breaks not going my way, I tried to stay mentally strong. This victory means a lot to me because I was never a junior; I started late, and I have a deep love for this game. I had never won such a significant tournament before. When you’re sitting next to all these incredible players, it’s something else. I took each rack as it came, and I believe my mental strength carried me through.”

Medals – 45-Plus 10-Ball

Gold – Tomasz Bak (POL)
Silver – Harald Stolka (GER)
Bronze – Nenad Ilic (SRB)
Roman Wasilewski (POL)

Ine Helvik

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Ine Helvik of Norway secured another gold medal, leading throughout the match to defeat Sweden’s Ulrika Andersson with a score of 6-4. This marked Helvik’s second title of the championships, having previously claimed the 10-ball gold earlier in the week. It was the fourth gold of her senior’s career. Helvik’s undefeated journey through the tournament serves as a testament to her unwavering commitment and hard work.

Helvik commented, “I’m absolutely thrilled. I had hoped for a medal in 8-ball, but my 8-ball game was all over the place. I prefer 10-ball due to the call-shot aspect, which allows for a bit more relaxation when missing a ball doesn’t lead to the same consequences. However, it seems that 9-ball is my strong suit overall. I plan to practice 8-ball ten times a week before next year’s event!”

Medals – Women 10-Ball

Gold – Ine Helvik (NOR)
Silver – Ulrika Andersson (SWE)
Bronze – Christine Steinlage (GER)
Birgit Heidorn (GER)

Manuel Pereira

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Portugal’s Manuel Pereira secured another gold medal by defeating Miroslav Kremenovic 8-5 in the 55-plus division. Pereira led from the beginning, and although Kremenovic made a comeback to narrow the score to 6-4, Pereira faced no further difficulties as he coasted to victory. This marked the second gold medal of the week for the Portuguese player, who also earned bronze medals in 14.1 and 8-ball, as well as a gold in the team event.

Pereira stated, “Unfortunately, I only won two gold medals when I was aiming for all four, but next year, I’ll strive for a clean sweep! I’d like to thank my friends, family, teammates, and national federation for making all of this possible.”

Medals – 55-Plus 10

-Ball

Gold – Manuel Pereira (POR)
Silver – Miroslav Kremenovic (SRB)
Bronze – Sten Jaerledal (SWE)
Kari Johansson (FIN)

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