The mixed doubles offers the best chance of a European medal at the Olympics, with even a gold medal being discussed for several European pairs inside the world’s top 16. There is also the undeniable Chinese threat from the top two pairs in the world, with countless Asian threats also looking to claim a medal in London.
The current world number 1 and world champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei will be the favourites in London – where they claimed the World Championship almost a year ago in the same arena as the one being used for the Olympics. However, there are question marks over their credentials going into the Olympics with two losses against the pair they defeated in the 2011 World Championship final, Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier. Both defeats came at the Super Series Premier Events, where they also crashed out of the Indonesia Super Series Premier to Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam.
The current world number 2 pairing of Xu Chen and Ma Jin have had their own struggles this year also. Since their victory in Korea in early January, they have failed to win a title after defeats in the All England by Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Rytter Juhl, followed up by defeat in Indonesia by Tantowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir – who are currently ranked 3rd in the world.
The European threat will be a trio of pairings looking to keep at least one gold medal in Europe, with the highest ranked pair of Joachim Fischer Neilsen and Christinna Pedersen being Europe’s best hope in the event. Currently ranked 4th in the world, their last title was the French Super Series title over 9 months ago and their records against the rest of the Olympic field is far from stellar. Only a 4-2 head to head over the current world number 1 pairing of Zhang and Zhao offers any kind of optimism, but even then the last two victories have been for the Chinese pair.
The 2009 World Champions, Laybourn and Rytter Juhl are the second Danish pair hoping to claim a medal next week but that will be unlikely with only the German GP Gold title to their name this year. With both Danish male players well into their 30′s, this will be both their final chance at Olympic success.
The bright new hope for European badminton is the British pairing of Adcock and Bankier, fueled by their silver medal in London in 2011 at the World Championships. Every single Super Series Premier this year has seen them take on the world number 1 pairing of Zhang and Zhao, winning the head to head 2-1 and only enhancing their belief of going one better in London this year. Their only title this year has came in Finland but their run of victories was good enough to earn qualification over Nathan Robertson and Jenny Wallwork as well as reaching the top 10 in the world rankings.
Who Are The Favourites?
There is no real favourite, which is why the event will be so competitive. Cheng and Chen of Chinese Taipei won the most recent Super Series event in Singapore, whilst Ahmad and Natsir took the prestigious All England title. There will be a threat from the 3 European pairs, whilst the Chinese pairs will both come expecting a medal. Under the radar however, is the Korean pair of Lee Yong Dae and Ha Jung Eun who are ranked 7th in the world. Lee Yong Dae is the current holder of the mixed doubles title from Beijing and whilst their run into the top 10 has been impressive, it has been without a single title being won.
Who Could Surprise?
The current European champions, Robert Mateusiak and Nadiezda Zieba were formerly world number 1′s and have claimed the Dutch and European title in the run up to the Olympics. Expect another strong showing from Adcock and Bankier also, regardless of their previous run of results. They had little to no expectations or form going into the 2011 World Championships and they are a pair that will thrive inside Wembley Arena with a partizan home crowd.