BLANKENBERGE - The two spearheads in Belgian three-cushion battled it out again for the national championship in Blankenberge. Frédéric Caudron took over the three cushion title beating Eddy Merckx in a match that was decided in the final stage. The tenth inning was the turning point: Caudron and Merckx levelled at 26-26, two innings later, Caudron finished the match after a brilliant sprint with 10 and 4: 40-27 in 12 innings. With the title, Caudron earned 30 points for the world ranking. Dick Jaspers won the title in the Netherlands, so that Jaspers remains the world's number one with a minimal lead. Eddy Leppens and Roland Forthomme completed the stage in three cushion.
The new champion, who just like Merckx only played the three cushion discipline at the Multi's this year , made a huge impression on the final day of the tournament. Caudron first defeated Steven van Acker 40-13 in 11 innings, then was the better of Eddy Leppens in the semi-finals 40-20 in 13 and finally bested Eddy Merckx in the golden match 40-20 in 12. On the last day, Caudron scored 120 caroms in 36 innings, recording 3.333 of average over three matches. That happened to be the same average that Merckx had noted in the three matches in the preliminaries.
Frédéric Caudron saved the best for last. The average over the entire championship, 2,592, is an absolute top achievement in international three cushion. The champion looked fresh and motivated in his performances. While in the years that he played more disciplines, Caudron sometimes looked tired after the marathon of matches in balk-line and one cushion. The Belgian and foreign audience in the stands in the Blankenberge Casino were lacking the genius of the master, Caudron himself will not regret his choice.
Eddy Merckx had one huge highlight in the tournament, with a win in seven innings over Luc Salvo. He was strong again in the semi-final against Roland Forthomme, whom he overpowered after a stop at 23-20 with two final runs to 40-20.
Frédéric Caudron moved up to the final with the best chances, Eddy Merckx once again showed an incredible final sprint. The two Belgian leading players advanced for the final, like in the previous year when Merckx won. Caudron had a rocket start in the semis against Eddy Leppens. He launched the match with 10, 0, 13 and 1 and led 24-11 after four innings. There was a short silence in the score, but after the tenth inning, Caudron started the final attack and won 40-20 in 13.
Eddy Merckx went right up with Roland Forthomme until the stop around 20. At 23-20 in 17, Merckx attacked relentlessly. With a final run of 12 (fluke for his 9th) Merckx put an end to the match, leaving Forthomme speechless at twenty: 40-20 in 20.
The first session on the final day, with the quarter-finals in one round, was dominated by Frédéric Caudron with a flawless performance against Steven van Acker. The smooth start brought him to 30-12 in nine innings. Two innings later, Caudron could leave the arena as the winner, long before the other three parties.
Eddy Merckx outplayed Kurt Ceulemans with a run of ten in the first part and led 20-9 in 10 innings at the break. He extended the lead after the stop, resulting in a 40-19 victory in 19.
Peter Ceulemans, who won a match in the preliminary round in 13 innings, missed the start in the quarters against Roland Forthomme. The score quickly turned to Forthomme's advantage (17-3 in 11), as Ceulemans scored only 5 points in his first fourteen innings and missed nine times. That was decisive for the match: Forthomme was by far the better and won 40-19 in 25.
Eddy Leppens, winner on Saturday in the classic games (one cushion and 47/1) went to the best four in three cushion by defeating Frédéric Mottet. Leppens led 20-10 in 9 and had a strong finish with 15 points in his last 3 innings: 40-21 in 18.
In the other disciplines, the Multi's were mainly dominated by Patrick Niessen and Eddy Leppens in the classic games. Niessens captured three titles, in the free game, 47/2 and 71/2, Leppens won the one cushion and the balk-line 47/1. Maarten Janssen, one of the three best in the pre-rounds, was lacking gold in the finals. Danielle le Bruyn won the title in the ladies, Johan Grimon in the wheelchair, Peter Mostrey in 5 pins and Dylan Parent was the best in the juniors.
The Belgian three cushion podium on the final day: Frédéric Caudron the winner (middle), Eddy Merckx the number two (left) and Eddy Leppens with the bronze medal.