With six medals still on offer, the final day of Olympic badminton promised to be special. China were assured of two medals with the possibility of three as Lin Dan defended his Olympic title in another classic.
Lin Dan Claims Gold
The 2011 meeting in this arena between Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei was widely considered to the greatest match ever played. The 2012 meeting for Olympic gold will definitely be a contender to that title. An animated Lee Chong Wei took the opening game as a lackluster Lin Dan made several critical areas as the Malaysian dominated at the net. The second game was a role reversal, with the drift inside the arena playing it’s part over the first two games.
The third game had everything you could ever wish for, long pulsating rallies and two of the best players of this or any generation retrieving shots that nobody thought possible. Lin Dan turned 11-9 up, but the ascendancy changed throughout the second game, with Lee Chong Wei taking an 18-16 lead as Malaysia hoped for gold. Lin Dan replied with the play that won him Olympic gold in Beijing four years previously. The score became 19-19 after the Malaysia left a lift that landed on the line, with Lin Dan going on an all-out attack to claim the first gold medal point.
The rally drew comparisons with Lin Dan’s match point a year previously, pushing deep into Lee Chong Wei’s forehand rear before a tight net shot from Lin Dan forced a high lift from the Malaysian that Lin Dan watched out of the back of the court before sprinting off court in celebration with the Chinese coaches in his wake. Lee Chong Wei remained on court to be consoled by his coaches. Lin Dan claimed his second gold medal 15-21, 21-10, 21-19 in 79 minutes.
Chen Long claimed the bronze medal in a three game victory over Lee Hyun Il to ensure an 8th medal out of a possible 15.
Cai and Fu Win Gold
The men’s doubles final was between Cai and Fu of China against Boe and Mogensen of Denmark, who defeated the world number 1 pairing of Lee and Chung, won had already won the bronze medal in the morning session. The match was competitive, but there was only going to be one winner as the Danish pair had already played their final in the semi finals in beating Lee and Chung. The 21-15, 21-16 score was an accurate representation of the match as a whole, with the Chinese pairing just too strong for the Danes.
The win ensured a clean sweep of the medals for China, with four new gold medalists in Li Xuerui, Cai and Fu, Tian and Zhao Yunlei, who claimed two golds, one in the women’s doubles and another in the mixed with Zhang Nan.
The day begun with Cai and Fu reaching the men’s doubles Olympic final and ended with a pair of gold medals for China with the injury of Wang Xin the only low point in a day riddled with success for the Chinese.
Gold For Li Xuerui
The form player in 2012 justified her selection for the Olympics ahead of Wang Shixian and won China’s second gold in two days. It was talent over willpower in the women’s singles match, with Wang Yihan’s talent failing to defeat Li Xuerui’s will to win in a three-game classic. Saina Nehwal claimed the bronze medal, but not in the way the Indian would have hoped as Wang Xin retired at the beginning of the second game after claiming the opening game. A knee-injury hindered Wang Xin’s movement before she crumbled on court after the opening point in the second game that forced her into retirement and gave Nehwal the bronze medal.
Tian and Zhao Claims Women’s Doubles Gold
There was a Chinese winner in the women’s doubles, but not the pair that many expected. With the group stage farce decimating the draw, it was the 2nd seeded Tian and Zhao who claimed gold – with Zhao Yunlei winning her second gold of the Olympics after her mixed doubles success. An easy first game victory for the Chinese required a response from the Japanese pairing of Fujii and Kakiiwa to ensure there wasn’t a Chinese rout. A tighter second game ensued, but the Chinese eventually took the second game 25-23 to ensure China’s third gold. Sorokina and Vislova took the bronze medal, after a one-sided victory over the Canadian pair of Bruce and Li.
Boe and Mogensen stun Lee and Chung
The “dream final” in the men’s doubles was put on hold for at least four years by the Danish pair of Boe and Mogensen who defeated Lee and Chung in a sensation men’s doubles semi final which will be a contender for match of the tournament. The Korean pair took an early lead, claiming the first game only for the Danes to respond and take the second game. After squandering a match point, Boe and Mogensen earned a second match point and a Mogensen lift was left by Lee Yong Dae, only for the shuttle to hit the lead and send the Danes into tomorrow’s final. Cai and Fu will be their opponents tomorrow, after the Chinese pair defeated Koo and Tan in a one-sided semi final that the Chinese pair took with their third match point to ensure their second successive Olympic final.
Day 8 Results:
The dream of going one better for Adcock and Bankier inside Wembley Arena lasted a mere two days. For some players, it was the start of their campaign but for others the dream has already ended in London..
Session 1 – Adcock & Bankier Out
The home crowd hoped for a reversal from yesterday’s match, but instead it was the same story as their group opener. Adcock and Bankier claimed the opening game against Fuchs and Michels before losing in three games to render their final group match against Zhang and Zhao meaningless. For Li and Bruce, it was another brutal defeat in the women’s doubles – this time it was the Korean pair of Kim and Jung the inflicted their second defeat in Group A and ensured their elimination.
Sho Sasaki and Lee Hyun Il began their campaigns with identical victories – 21-12, 21-7 to book their places in the last 16. Ahmad and Natsir booked their place in the mixed doubles quarterfinals with a two game victory over Lee and Ha of Korea, who will need to win their next two matches to have any chance of progressing.
Session 2 – Jongjit & Issara Impressive
The Thai pairing of Jongjit and Issara came into the Olympics as the world number 19 pairing but have progressed in the last 8 of the men’s doubles with a victory over Ko and Yoo, their third victory against the Korean pair. Another pair safely into the last 8 is the Malaysian pair of Koo and Tan – whose victory over Bach and Gunawan eliminated the American pair.
Zhang and Zhao booked their place in the last 8 in the mixed doubles with a two game victory over Nikolaenko and Sorokina, whilst Laybourn and Rytter Juhl opened up their campaign in Group C of the mixed doubles with a victory over V and Gutta of India to end any chances of them qualifying for the last 8.
Saina Nehwal began her campaign in impressive fashion, defeating Sabrina Jaquet 21-9, 21-4 to join Lianne Tan at the top of Group E. Sayako Sato set up her winner-take-all match with Susan Egelstaff after the 12th seed defeated Maya Tvrdy in two tight games to join the Brit at the top of Group H
Session 3 – Boe & Mogensen Survive Scare
Wang and Yu made it two impressive victories in a row with their win over Vislova and Sorokina to top Group A. There were three more Chinese victories as Xu and Ma started their mixed doubles campaign with a win over Chan and Goh of Malaysia whilst her Spanish opponent Carolina Marin tested Li Xuerui before the 3rd seed eventually won in two games. Cai and Fu completed the Chinese success story with a two game victory over Kindervater and Scholettler but needed to save three game points in the first game.
Cai and Fu’s main rivals in the men’s doubles, Lee and Chung came through in two games against Sato and Kawamae of Japan. The lasting image of the match with being Naoki Kawamae’s smash in the first game that broke his racket with the force of the shot. Boe and Mogensen survived a real scare against the world number 18 pairing of Ivanov and Sozonov as they dropped the first game and were two points away from defeat. However, the Danes fought back to take the second game and were never in any danger in the third game and secured qualification into the last 8.
Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl resurrected their chances of reaching the last 8 of the women’s doubles with a three game battle over Poon and Tse of Hong Kong to set up a Tuesday morning clash with the world number 2 pairing of Tian and Zhao. Rajiv Ouseph was GB’s sole victory on the day he defeated Henri Hurkainen in three games in one of the last matches of the session. Ouseph takes on Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon for the top spot in Group M on Tuesday afternoon.
The group stages for the badminton were one of the first events to begin on Day 1 of the Olympics, with every player understanding that whilst the gold couldn’t be won today – any chance of winning it could be lost on the opening days play.
Session 1 – Heartbreak For GB & Denmark
Ahmad and Natsir began play on the opening day, with the 3rd seeds in the mixed doubles defeating V and Gutta of India in two games to start their campaign in the best possible way. Bae Yeon Ju survived an first game scare against Tee Jung Yi to win her match in three games whilst the current European champion pairing of Mateusiak and Zieba defeated Ikeda and Shiota for the first time to win their mixed doubles opener in Group B.
The second and third matches of the session brought the biggest surprises, with Maeda and Suetsuna defeating the Danish pair of Pedersen and Rytter Juhl to top Group D in the women’s doubles. The world silver medalists in the mixed doubles, Adcock and Bankier suffered a three game defeat to the Russian pair of Nikolaenko and Sorokina to make their qualification chances increasingly difficult, with a victory over Zhang and Zhao almost certainly needed to progress to the last 8.
Zhao Yunlei was on an adjacent court in her women’s doubles opener with Tian Qing, with the Chinese pair needing just two games to defeat the Hong Kong pair of Poon and Tse
Session 2 – No Problem For The Seeds
GB got their first victory of the day, with Susan Egelstaff defeating Maja Tvrdy in two games to make her match with Sayaka Sato all the more important. Cwalina and Logosz had the makings of a surprise against Ko and Yoo, before the Korean’s eventually found their form and won the match in three games.
Li Xuerui defeated Claudia Rivero easily to take top spot in Group L, whilst in the men’s singles Shon Wan Ho and Taufik Hidayat both won their opening group games, with Hidayat defeating Petr Koukal 21-8, 21-8 to signal his intend for the week ahead.
Ha and Kim won their Group C opener in the women’s doubles against the South African pair of Viljoen and Edwards whilst in Group D, Fujii and Kakiiwa defeated Gutta and Ponnappa to top Group B. The Group B mixed doubles has two Europeans in the qualfication spots, with Denmark’s Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen defeating Canada’s Ng and Gao to win their first match within the group.
Session 3 – Top Seeds Start Perfectly
Wang and Yu were never in any trouble in their Group A opener against Li and Bruce, winning in two games to top the group. Zhang and Zhao joined Nikolaenko and Sorokina at the top of Group A in the mixed doubles with an impressive two game victory over Fuchs and Michels.
The top three pairs in the men’s doubles, with Cai and Fu beginning their campaign and Smith and Warfe of Australia, headlined the session. The Chinese pair never looked in any danger as they defeated the world number 38 pairing in two games. The 2005 world champions – USA’s Bach and Gunawan, tested Lee and Chung in their Group D opener. The second seeded Korean’s progressed in two games to sit atop Group D with Koo and Tan.
Denmark recovered from their women’s doubles defeat with a pair of victories in the final session. Boe and Mogensen defeated the South African pair of James and Viljoen in two games to top Group C in the men’s doubles whilst in the men’s singles Jan O Jorgensen defeated Israel’s Misha Zilberman to top Group I, with a match with Derek Wong on Tuesday night to book his place in the last 16.
Day 1 Results:
The group stages have provided countless intriguing matches, from the opening session of play all the way to the final session of the group phase.
All Start Times Are Local Times
Saturday, July 28 – 8.30am
Lee / Ha (Korea) – Laybourn / Rytter Juhl (Denmark)
The toughest mixed doubles group of the four opens up play inside Wembley Arena, with the world number 8 and 9 pairs clashing to take one step closer to the quarter finals. They sole meeting came at the German GP in April and resulted in a one-sided victory for the Danes which they will hope for this weekend. There is also the question of endurance for Lee Yong Dae, as he will be back on court that night in the men’s doubles with Chung Jae Sung over 12 hours after playing his opening mixed doubles match. Saturday will be a long day for Lee Yong Dae.
Sunday, July 29 – 8.30am
Zhang / Zhao (China, Seeded 1) – Adcock / Bankier (Great Britain)
Wembley Arena has brought them together once more, with the playing field evened ever so slightly from little under a year ago. The Brits have claimed two famous victories since their defeat at the World Championships against this Chinese pair, both coming at Super Series Premier events. Zhang and Zhao claimed their most recent match in Indonesia last month, but the British pair have something they didn’t have a year ago, belief that they could beat the Chinese. There was hope last year that their run the final would continue on for one more day, but on Sunday morning there is a belief and a track record to support them – as well as a capacity crowd.
Sunday, July 29 – 1.40pm
Chen Long (China, Seeded 3) – Boonsak Ponsana (Thailand)
On paper, this should be a routine victory on route to the last 16 for the 3rd seed but their head to head suggests differently. The world number 22 has a 2-1 advantage over Chen Long from Ponsana’s time inside the world’s top ten. Their last match was over 18 months ago but this is far from an easy match for Chen Long.
Monday, July 30 – 9.05am
Wang Yihan (China, Seeded 1) – Michelle Li (Canada)
The Canadian has struggled with food poisoning in the build up this week, but there will be no excuses available to Wang Yihan should she fail to reach the last 16. It will be their first match against one another, with the world number 1 a massive favourite to go through. Michelle Li’s draw in the women’s doubles is just as tough as she will take on the world number 1 pairing of Wang and Yu the day before her opening singles match.
Monday, July 30 – 2.15pm
Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia, Seeded 1) – Ville Lang (Finland)
The national secret over the rehabilitation of Lee Chong Wei’s ankle will be revealed and tested on Monday afternoon, by the Finnish workhouse of Ville Lang. His 104-minute marathon against Christian Lind Thomsen in April has proven that is physically capable of withstanding a demanding match, he will lengthen rallies to tire opponents and he will test out Lee Chong Wei’s right ankle. Few are expecting a Lee Chong Wei defeat if he is anywhere near his best, but his rivals will watch this match intently for signs of discomfort and weakness.
Monday, July 30 – 7.44pm
Peter Gade (Denmark, Seeded 5) – Pedro Martins (Portugal)
And so the legend ends. Peter Gade’s final Olympics will begin on Monday night against Portugal’s Pedro Martins with the knowledge that a win will take him through to the last 16. It has been over two months since Gade’s last competitive victory, with a pair of losses to Lee Hyun Il and Sony Dwi Kuncoro adding more doubt to the legendary Gade’s chances of medalling in London. A strong performance will cast those doubts aside for at least a few days.
Monday, July 30 – 8.15pm
Lin Dan (China, Seeded 2) – Scott Evans (Ireland)
Lin Dan’s title defence starts against Scott Evans, a reserve for the event who know has the unthinkable task of ending the run of the defending champion. The pair have played three times previously with their most recent match taking place inside Wembley Arena at the 2011 Worlds, with Lin Dan winning comfortably. Scott Evans has never taken a game against Lin Dan, he’ll need two for the biggest shock of the Olympics.
Tuesday, July 31 – 2.19pm
Sayaka Sato (Japan, Seeded 12) – Susan Egelstaff (Great Britain)
Susan Egelstaff’s draw was considered favourable as she avoided the top 10 players in the world, but on further observation this could be the biggest shock of the group stages as well as one of the best moments inside Wembley Arena for the GB team. Egelstaff holds a 1-0 advantage in the head to heads, with a victory at the 2010 All England Championships but Sato also comes into the Olympics in a poor run of form – winning just 8 of her 22 matches this year.
Tuesday, July 31 – 3.20pm
Lee / Chung (Korea, Seeded 2) – Koo / Tan (Malaysia)
There will be something riding on this match in all likelihood for at least one of these pairs, whether it is for the group win or simply to qualify. Koo and Tan have failed to record a victory over the Korean pair since the 2010 Worlds in Paris and will probably need a victory to ensure their place in the last 8 with Boe and Mogensen or Chai and Guo waiting in the quarter finals for one if not both of the pairs.
The London Olympics are just days away, the realisation that four years have passed since Lin Dan’s masterclass in Beijing and that five champions will be crowned – before it all ends for another four years come August 5.
All the favourites are present this year, Lee Chong Wei has recovered from his ankle injury but to what extent remains unclear. His first match will be against Finland’s Ville Lang, a EBU tour veteran whose physical approach to the game will be a intriguing test for the Malaysian and his ankle. Lin Dan takes on Scott Evans, with the Irishman making it into the Olympics from second reserve to be the first hurdle in Lin Dan’s defence of the title. A last 16 clash with Taufik Hidayat potentially awaits, as the 2004 and 2008 Olympic champions face one another in 2012.
Peter Gade starts his campaign against Portugal’s Pedro Martins, but matches with Shon Wan Ho and Chen Long await on his path to the semi final stage and any chance of a medal. British hopes lie in the hands of Rajiv Ouseph, who takes on the European silver medalist Henri Hurskainen and world championship quarter finalist Kevin Cordon – with the group winner taking on Sho Sasaki unless one of the greatest upsets in the history of the Olympics and Virgil Soeroredjo sensationally defeats the 6th seeded Sasaki.
Michelle Li will be the top seeded Wang Yihan’s opening round match, with the Canadian meeting the top seed in both her events at the Olympics. Wang Xin takes on the USA’s Rena Wang whilst Li Xuerui has to take on both Carolina Marin and Claudia Rivero to ensure her place in the last 16. Saina Nehwal’s quarter of the draw is laden with Europeans, with no less than 14 of the 16 players coming from European – headlined by the 5th seeded Tine Baun, Saina Nehwal’s likely quarter final opponent. Susan Egelstaff couldn’t have hand picked a better group, with Britain’s sole entry taking on the 12th seeded Sayaka Sato and Slovenia’s Maja Tvrdy, both of which she has a superior head to head against.
Perhaps the toughest groups of the Olympics is in the men’s doubles, with Lee and Chung of Korea taking on the 2005 world championships Bach and Gunawan, as well as the Japanese pair of Sato and Kawamae then finally Koo and Tan of Malaysia. Another intriguing group features the 4th seeded Ko and Yoo, who take on Issara and Jongjit of Thailand, a pair they have never beaten, as well as Poland’s Cwalina and Logosz before the hardest of their group matches against Ahsan and Septano.
The women’s doubles groups have varying degrees of difficulty, with Ha and Kim as well as Jauhari and Polii receiving a fortunate group featuring the African and Oceania entries for the Olympics. Whilst Group D has three pairs inside of the top 10, with Tian and Zhao, Maeda and Suetsuna as well as Rytter Juhl and Pedersen all battling for one spot. Not to mention the Singapore pair of Tse and Poon who have excellent records against all the pairs except the Chinese 2nd seeds in their group.
As if the script wasn’t written for this, Zhang and Zhao will take on Adcock and Bankier inside Wembley Arena once more. Both were put into Group A with Fuchs and Michels of Germany and Nikolaenko and Sorokina of Russia with the Brits being favoured to claim at least one of the qualification spots on offer. Group C is without a doubt the “group of death” at this year’s Olympics. With three of the top 9 pairs in the world in the same group, with the 4th pair being ranked 13th. Ahsan and Natsir, Laybourn and Rytter Juhl as well as Lee and Ha will have to fight for two places, with the Indian pair of V and Gutta undoubtably going to have some say in the final standings of this group also.
The name might be different, but this is the same pair of players that regained the world number 1 spot for the first time in two years. The name change is a request from the Korean Association to change Jung Jae Sung to the name that is on his passport of Chung Jae Sung. The current world number 1 and All England champions partnership is likely to end after the Olympics after 6 years, with Chung Jae Jung being left out of the Thomas Cup team signaling the beginning of the end.
Their partnership has enjoyed countless achievements but on the greatest stage, they have been second best to the pairing of Cai and Fu. Losses in the 2009 and 2011 World Championships to the Chinese pair as well as a 2007 defeat to Kido and Setiawan has robbed them of a world title. Lee Yong Dae has already experienced Olympic success in the mixed doubles in 2008 and will have two more chances at Olympic success after qualifying for the mixed doubles also. For Chung Jae Jung however, this will probably be his final chance at Olympic success. He will turn 30 a few weeks after the Olympics and will Lee Yong Dae already experimenting with new partnerships, this will likely be the last appearance of Chung Jae Jung at the Olympics and probably alongside Lee Yong Dae also.
A 22nd and final matchup with Cai and Fu will ultimately define their rivalry with the Chinese pairing, a victory would almost ensure Olympic gold as well as a 12-10 head to head record, whilst a defeat would ensure they would be the best pairing of this generation never to win a World or Olympic title and tie their 22-game series at 11-11 as well as Cai and Fu’s first Olympic gold.
Who Are The Potential Threats?
Apart from the obvious Cai and Fu threat, there is competition from within the Korean squad in Ko and Yoo who have a 4-4 head to head against the current world number 1 as well as a victory in their most recent encounter in Korea last year. Chai and Guo of China also hold a 2-1 head to head advantage over the Korean pair, including a two game victory in the Super Series finals at the end of 2011.
Are They Favourites For Gold?
Cai and Fu still have the edge when it comes to the matches at the major competitions which includes a two game defeat to the Chinese pair in the same arena at the World Championships a year previously. They are one of the favourites for the title and will almost definitely win a medal in under a months time.
How Important Is This Olympics For Their Legacy?
Nothing short of a victory is needing to cement their legacy as one of the best pairings of this generation. Without a World or Olympic title, they will enter a category of greatest pairs never to win a major title. A victory over Cai and Fu is perhaps also need to validate any argument about which one of the pairs is the best of the past 6 years. A loss to Cai and Fu would be catastrophic, perhaps more for Chung Jae Jung than Lee Yong Dae, who at 23 will have at least one more Olympics in Rio four years from now. The head to head would be 11-11 with a defeat, with Cai and Fu claiming four world and probably an Olympic title in the process.