Diaz-Pizarro & Helvik are EC 9-Ball Champs

Ine Helvik and Francisco Diaz-Pizarro

The 2022 Dynamic Billard European Pool Championships Seniors wrapped up today in Lasko as Francisco Diaz-Pizarro (Spain) and Ine Helvik (Norway) claimed the final gold medals in the 9-ball division. In contrasting finals, Diaz-Pizarro put on a blistering display of potting, while
Helvik battled back from an early deficit to come on strong in the home straight.

Diaz-Pizarro was a beaten finalist in this same event last year and had previously claimed 9-ball gold on two occasions at the non-seniors’ men’s ECs. This week he travelled to Slovenia just to compete in the 9-ball division, a decision that was fully vindicated. In addition to the gold medal and the title, the Spaniard also bagged a spot at next year’s World 9-Ball Championship.

He said, “Last year I made second place and this year finally I won! It could be bit of a disadvantage not playing in the other tournaments but I felt it was an advantage as I came fresh. The other players played many days and maybe they got tired. There was a chance to get qualification for the World 9-Ball Championship so I tried to win so I could go.”

Sini, a previous winner of this title in 2019, got the game underway but he was blocked on the 1-ball and pushed out. He left a one-rail escape and Diaz-Pizarro gave it back to him. Sini left the 1-ball into the centre pocket and the Spaniard looked good for the runout. Despite losing position, his potting skills sealed the opener.

After a powerful break off, the 5-ball crept into the path of the 2. However, a super jump shot kept Diaz-Pizarro at the table and a top-class bank on the 3-ball kept it going. Potting at pace, it soon became 2-0.

Sini came with an illegal break and the following exchange of safeties was ended with another marvellous jump shot as Diaz potted the 1-ball, leaving a shot on the 2. His pocketing skills were hard to live with as he ran out for a three-rack lead.

Diaz sent the 1-ball into centre pocket as he looked for another runout. He seemed in total control of his game with no pot too difficult and pin-point positional play. In no time he had cleared the table to reach the halfway stage of the match.

Sini needed to find something fast but his break yielded nothing as well as being illegal. With the 1-ball blocked, Diaz-Pizarro gave the table back and Sini pushed out. Again, the table was handed back to the Italian and his jump shot on the 1-ball made contact but left it on for his opponent. With very little hesitation, Diaz increased his lead to 5-0.

Diaz made his first mistake of the match as a delicate attempt on the 2-ball clipped the 6 on route to the pocket. Sini however, missed the 2 using the rest as his match went from bad to worse. In no time, Diaz had made it 6-0 as he looked unassailable.

There was more of the same from Diaz-Pizarro as he put himself on the hill at 7-0 and was breaking for the match. The win came in a flash. The 1-ball disappeared into the centre pocket and left a simple 2/9 combination which Diaz-Pizarro dispatched for the title.

Bronze medals went to last year’s multi-medallist, Jorge Tinoco (Portugal) and Valtteri Virtanen of Finland.

Ine Helvik, by her high standards, was having a terrible week at this European Championships. Having gone two and out in both the 10-ball and 8-ball, she saved her best to last as she overcame a rocky start to claim 9-ball gold, defeating Germany’s Susanne Wessel in the final.

The German took the early lead at 2-0, before Helvik forced her way back into the match as she tied it up at 2-2. They split the next two racks between them as it became a race to three racks.

Both players had plenty of visits in a difficult fifth rack before it came down to the 7-ball. Ultimately, a gutsy bank shot from Helvik set her up to take the lead for the first time at 4-3. A good break-off from Helvik gave her a difficult attempt on the 1-ball which she missed it. Wessels also fell short with an attempt but this time left it hanging for her opponent.

They both had shots on the 2-ball before Helvik rolled it in, leaving the possibility of a clearance and she kept it together superbly to run out for a two-rack lead and put herself on the hill. There was another illegal break from Wessels but Helvik missed the 1-ball trying to force position for the 2 up-table. With everything at stake, neither player could assert themself.

It came down to the 9-ball and after several attempts by both players, Wessels deposited it to stay alive at 5-4. Helvik, breaking for the match, made a good show of it and was soon eying up a possible 2/9 combo. It wasn’t the easiest but with the title on the line, she delivered it perfectly for the gold medal.

Commented Helvik, “This is my fifth title and I’m very happy about this as it’s been a while. I last won in 2019 and then the year after I was really struggling. In 2021 we were in Treviso and that was really a tough tournament and I went away with a bronze medal, so this was a big thing.

“At the beginning of the tournament, I had two out and two out so I didn’t really play that much before the 9-ball and I got a bit lucky too, I must say. My opponents had some bad rolls and stuff so it goes both ways but they had the bad ones at the right moment for me.

“I had some good support, not just my Norwegians but I also had a lot of other people rooting for me which was so nice. During the national anthem my team were actually singing and I almost broke into tears so that was really, really nice,” she added.

Alexandra Cunha (Great Britain) and Germany’s Sigrid Glatz claimed the two bronze medals.

The 2022 Dynamic Billards European Championship Seniors and Ladies comprises nine separate events across four disciplines – 8, 9 and 10 ball as well as straight pool for men and teams.

Full results of the championships are available at www.epbf.com/tournaments/european-championships/

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