SLUISKIL - The trophy for best Dutch junior in three-cushion was taken from Zeeland to faraway Den Helder on Sunday evening. In the final match, 23-year-old North Holland player Tom Slikker faced Zeeland's Joris van 't Zelfden, who played a kind of home game in Sluiskil. The title and gold for the winner went to the reigning champion, who turned down the attack on his throne. Tom Slikker is the best Dutch junior for another year, with no sign of boosting his career. The robust champion told at the podium that he was very happy with the championship, that he is eager to receive the ticket for participation at the European championship, but also told the fans that billiards and the development to a higher level no longer dominates his life. ’’I have my job in a café, enjoy going out with friends and girlfriends and no longer have the urge to train a lot,'' he said after the ceremony in the event in which 12 talents could show what Dutch billiards has to offer for the future.
Joris van 't Zelfden, two years younger and the losing finalist with 30-26 in 37 innings (0.810 against 0.702), certainly does have that ambition, trains hard under the guidance of the national coaches, already won two titles and mourned the missed opportunity for his third victory. The Zeeuw, who has built his own billiard hall, was narrowly top in average, but was the lesser of his cooler opponent in the wear and tear of the final.
Tom Slikker was among the most seasoned players in the company that entered the Sluiskil stronghold. ''I have been in finals five times, now I can compete one more time next year, then my junior years are over.'' The man working in a café from Den Helder, who grew up in a pub, continues to play billiards, just not with optimal commitment. The Dutch championship has been a highlight of his year so far. ’’I attended training sessions before, but was rightly expelled by the federation because I did not show enough ambitions and stayed away from trainings.'' A better attitude is expected from the current talents under the leadership of Christ van der Smissen and Jean Paul de Bruijn. Joris van 't Zelfden is a good example of this.
The Dutch billiards federation, in particular the Stichting three cushion, is a model for expert training of young billiard players. The best countries in three-cushion are South Korea, Vietnam, Turkey and Spain, where hundreds of young players are developing in the toughest and most popular discipline. Dutch billiards does not have this unprecedented opulence, but it does offer every opportunity, as became clear at the Dutch championships this weekend.
Paul Brekelmans and Hans de Bruin, figureheads of the section, were satisfied with the 12 players aged between 11 and 25, who were able to play three days of preliminaries and finals in a wonderful entourage. Paul Brekelmans: ’’We not only offer professional training and coaching. We also allow the players to go to tournaments abroad, organized by the European Federation. There they can gain experience.'' The billiards federation also contributed this weekend in accommodation and lodging for the players who came from all over the country.
Tom Slikker has left that course, brothers Nick and Leon Dudink are following a different path, Limburger Xavier Siahaija, who became a father a few weeks ago and celebrated a championship at the small billiard table last week, is also nearing the end of his junior days, other players are eagerly taking advantage of the opportunities. Two little men, wonderfully enthusiastic, were cheered a lot these days. Jayden van Buren from Hilversum is only 11, a rough talent yet, crying out for technical training. Joeri Wilkowski, 12, has already made visible progress under the guidance of the trainers. The youngster from Brabant rides his bike every day for one and a half hour to a school for top sporting talents and follows a modified study.
Belgian youngster Luca Philipoom, 15, even used his mother's passport to attend the traject of training as a Dutchman. As a result, he was also entitled to compete in the Dutch championships this weekend. He was fervently hoping for a leading role, but fell just outside the podium with fifth place. Paul Brekelmans: ’’With those very young talents, we already have successors ready for Tom Slikker, Joris van 't Zelfden and the Dudink brothers. And hopefully more young players will offer themselves in the coming years.''
The podium was now reserved for the young twenty players. Joris van 't Zelfden beat Leon Dudink in the semi-final 30-21 in 28 innings, Tom Slikker won against Nick Dudink, with whom he played last year's final. Now he won again, 30-20 in 31 innings. That led to the final between Tom Slikker and Joris van 't Zelfden, which only showed a slightly better Zeeuw player after the start (7-3), but towards the final part was dominated by the North Holland player, who needed a trio of match balls at the end to grab the win.
The best juniors can earn tickets to European Under-25 and Under-21 championships this year, of which Tom Slikker and Joris van 't Zelfden are already assured.
There was much praise in Sluiskil for the organization in HCR Dallinga and the visit of many spectators.
De eindstand van het NK (moyenne en hoogste serie):
- Tom Slikker 0.813-6
- Joris van ’t Zelfden 0.885-5
- Leon Dudink 0.762-6
- Nick Dudink 0.620-5
- Luca Philipoom 0.674-4
- Xavier Siahaija 0.679-7
- Gilano Vloedmans 0.463-3
- Joeri Wilkowski 0.403-5
- Jayden van Buren 0.403-5
- Robin Dobbeleir 0.230-2
- Sean van Buren 0.307-4
- Levi van der Hout 0.235-3.