Badminton: Nielsen hits medal trail

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ANDERS NIELSEN produced one of his best performances for England by beating Oliver Pongratz, the German champion, to help his country to a 3-2 victory in the European Championships in 's Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, yesterday.

Nielsen was taking the place of Darren Hall, the former European champion who has been laid low by a bad back, and he looked in better form than in the Thomas Cup in Glasgow two months ago. Then, his opening defeat against Finland set England on the path towards elimination.

This time, in a match of long rallies, Nielsen was quick and tenacious and his 17-14, 11-15, 15-11 win over Pongratz put England 2-0 up. The winning lead was supplied by Suzanne Louis-Lane, who beat Nicole Baldewein 11-1, 12-9.

Equally important was the opening success in the mixed doubles by Chris Hunt and Gillian Gowers, the surprise late substitutes for Nick Ponting and Joanne Wright, who is suffering from a cold.

Later, England lost 4-1 to Denmark, the top seeds, with only Simon Archer and Chris Hunt winning a dead match in the men's doubles. It left England to contest the bronze medal with Russia today.