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April 18, 1998 (NEW SHUTTLENWS) - Defending champion Denmark got off to a flying start at the European badminton team championships now underway in Sofia, Bulgaria. In the first day of competition today, the Danes whitewashed the Netherlands 5 matches to none, winning without dropping a single game.

Jens Eriksen and Marlene Thomsen staked the dominant Danes to a 1-0 lead in the mixed doubles match when they beat Norbert van Barneveld and Lotte Jonathans 15-8 and 15-3. Peter Gade-Christensen followed with an easy 15-3 and 15-4 men's singles victory over Gerben Bruijstens. Mette Pedersen then gave the Danes an insurmountable 3-0 advantage when she defeated Lonneke Jansen 11-6 and 11-8 in the women's singles match.

Michael Sogaard and Jon Holst-Christensen beat Quinten van Dalm and Dennis Lens 15-7 and 15-12 in the men's doubles match. Marlene Thomsen and Rikke Olsen then completed the rout with a 15-6 and 17-15 women's doubles win over Erica van den Heuvel and Monique Hoogland.

Sweden, Denmark's archrival in European badminton, got a scare from the Germans who took the Swedes down to the last match before the outcome was decided.

Germany took the early lead when Michael Keck and Nicol Pitro surprised Peter Axelsson and Catrine Bengtsson 15-5 and 15-9in the mixed doubles opener. Then Margit Borg equalized for Sweden when she whipped Katja Michalowsky 11-3 and 11-2 in the women's singles match. Henrik Bengtsson put Sweden ahead 2-1 with his 15-8 and 15-12 men's singles win over Oliver Pongratz.

The Germans though would not surrender. Karen Stechmann and Kerstin Ubben combined in the women's doubles match to upset Margit Borg and Catrine Bengtsson 15-5 and 18-15. The Swedes and the Germans were now all knotted up at 2 matches apiece.

The Swedes though had their world-class men's doubles pair of Peter Axelsson and Par-Gunnar Jonsson ready. The vastly experienced Swedish combination did not disappoint their teammates. Axelsson and Jonsson put out Michael Helber and Bjorn Siegemund 15-10 and 15-6 to give the Swedes the victory.

The English side beat their Northern neighbors, Scotland, winning the first three matches before dropping the last two. Joanne Goode and Donna Kellogg opened up with a 15-7 and 15-11 women's doubles win over Sandra Watt and Elinor Middlemiss. Julian Robertson and Nathan Robertson then defeated Russell Hogg and Kenny Middlemiss 15-7 and 15-11 in the men's doubles match to put England ahead 2-0.

After some tense moments, Julia Mann clinched for England in the women's singles match. She came back from behind to beat Anne Gibson 8-11, 11-7 and 12-9.

In the fourth match, the men's singles, Colin Haughton of England lost to Bruce Flockhart 5-15, 15-12 and 10-15. Chris Hunt and Donna Kellogg lost the mixed doubles match to the Scottish pair of Kenny Middlemiss and Elinor Middlemiss 12-15,11-15.

In the other meeting in the championship group, Ukraine squeezed past Russia 3-2. Vladislav Druzchenko of Ukraine beat Victor Malutin 18-13 and 15-1 in men's singles. Elena Nozdran and Victoria Evtoushenko lost to the Russian women's doubles pair of Ella Karachkova and Marina Yakusheva 7-15 and 8-15. Ukrainians Konstantin Tatranov and Valeri Strelkov were defeated in the men's doubles match by Nikolai Zuev and Sergei Melnikov 14-18 and 4-15. Elena Nozdran then kept the Ukrainin hopes alive with an 11-7 and 11-7 women's singles win over Ella Karachkova. In the final match, the mixed doubles, Druzchenko and Evtoushenko combined to beat Russians Zuev and Yakusheva 15-13 and 15-10.

In Group 2 which consists of countries who did not qualify for the championship group and who are competing to move into the top group for the next European championships, Finland beat Poland 5-0, Switzerland beat Ireland 4-1, France beat Wales 4-1, and Bulgaria defeated Portugal 5-0 in the early session.

In a later session, Bulgaria beat France 4-1, Wales beat Portugal 3-2, Switzerland beat Poland 3-2, and Finland beat Ireland 4-1.

Summary of Group 1 (championship group) results:

Sub-Group A
Denmark beat Netherlands 5-0, Ukraine beat Russia 3-2
Sub-Group B
Sweden beat Germany 3-2, England beat Scotland 3-2