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The fight for the top spots in the groups is heating up as we’re halfway through the Group Stage of the European Games 2023. Amongst the tough battles, we’re witnessing special moments and big wins for athletes.

At the age of 28, Felix Burestedt has decided to retire from professional badminton — the player announced it a little over a month. He decided that his last competition would be representing Sweden at the European Games. “It’s a nice experience. I think there’s just a lot of things around it that makes it a bit special.”

‘Special’ is one of the most used words to describe the continental multisport event. Players get to compete not just for triumphs and medals on a big stage for themselves, but also for their nations. The badminton event of Kraków-Małopolska 2023 is now on its second day, halfway through the Group Stage, and athletes are fighting to make it out of it. Burestedt lost his match yesterday against Finland’s Kalle Koljonen and he reflected on the positives of what’s one of his last matches of his career.

“Even though I was behind in some parts and even if I did not get the win yesterday, I fought until the end and did my best. I tried to find solutions no matter what. I’m pleased with that,” Burestedt stated. Indeed, he showed a good fighting spirit, facing Dane Anders Antonsen — the seeded player in Group B and European Games 2019 gold medallist.

The match only went on for two games, but it lasted almost an hour. Both players gave it their all, and Burestedt got to show that he’s not done yet in his last competition. The Swede beat Antonsen, 21-19 21-19. “It was special for sure. It’s probably the best player I have ever beat and this is my last tournament so it’s a nice way of ending it — but I’m not finished yet, I have at least one more match.” Tomorrow, Burestedt will be facing Türkiye’s Emre Lale.

As always, every win counts and athletes are starting to count the wins and loses — not just theirs but also of the fellow athletes in their groups. After securing a solid win yesterday, Team GB’s Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith were facing seeded duo Mark Lamsfuss and Isabel Lohau, Germany. “We knew they were going to be really tough opponents, and they were. We turned it around in the second game. We got an important run and kept the momentum for the rest of the game. We are really proud of our performance today,” Smith said.

The British duo won the match in three games, 16-21, 21-17, 21-10, to be on top of Group D. “You could see it at the end of the game, how much it meant to us. It’s giving us a good chance coming out of the group to get a more favourable draw.”

There still is one more day of the Group Stage to go for most, with the mixed doubles pairs having to wait until Thursday for their last battle in their groups. Ellis hopes for a good week in Tarnow. “You’re asking for what we want, I want to win. There is no doubt about it but there are still a lot of games that we have to perform well in before we even get close to that opportunity. Hopefully, by the end of the week if we’re still here, we’ll be in with a shout.”