A couple of weeks ago our Road2Hel-project saw a 2-year milestone, meaning we have exactly 2 years to the climax, the ETC (European Team Championships) in Finland. I’m fortunate to say we are on schedule! In this year’s ETC in Birmingham, England, our girls did what we aimed for and got promoted to the 1st division, top 8, for 2020! The week in Birmingham was nearly perfect for Finnish squash, as the men’s team got promoted respectively, despite missing 2 key players from the squad.
Looking at the draws before this year’s event, it looked like we had a chance to get up in both men and women. However, it was far from easy. Each girl had to, and was able to, push hard when needed and when someone didn’t have the best day, others found one or two more gears to pull through. In the deciding match to get promoted, girls managed to beat Czech Republic. First Riina beat Michaela Cépova 3-0 and then Emppa clinched a victory over Anna Serme 3-2 to secure a place in the top 8 next year. Both found their best form of the week at the right time, which meant that Emilia “EK” Korhonen didn’t have to step on court for the dead rubber match.
Getting promoted to the 1st division 2 years before the actual goal of a medal, makes the project a bit trickier though. Now, in order to compete for a medal in 2021 in Finland, we must stay in the first division in Amsterdam 2020. This means finishing in top 6 in Europe.
The current system in ETC is exceedingly poor. The level difference between 4th and 14th ranked nations in Europe is not enormous. When someone drops to the 2nd division, next year the best possible final position is 9th, which is massively demotivating for a nation who’d optimally be fighting for a medal. This condition applies to both men and women. There are some nations who have been in an elevator movement between the 1st and 2nd division for some years now and we need to do all we can to avoid that next year. We are positive, but as we all know, anything is possible in life – and especially in sports.
To finish inside the top 6 in ETC 2020, all the girls must progress and develop their game a couple of steps up. They all have good chances to make it happen. They all have good coaches and the ambition level to get better is high. It’s kind of irritating though that getting better is not linear and whatever you do, you can’t be sure of the outcome. Although, this is what makes training and pursuing one’s goals interesting, and leaves room for surprises. Life must be unpredictable; you never know what you’re gonna get and that’s the salt of life – as we say in Finnish.