9 Days, 5 Chinese Golds and 8 disqualified athletes as the wait for another Olympics begins once more. The Great British dream turned into a nightmare inside the opening two hours of play whilst a legend was born in the final two hours of play.
Lin Dan successfully defended his Olympic crown with a performance that to an extent, surpasses his victory in Beijing four years previously. There was no partisan crown in Wembley Arena and there was an equal on the court in Lee Chong Wei. It is to date, the greatest Olympic match ever.
Li Xuerui was a relative unknown inside this arena 12 months ago, as she watched on as the world championships took place. Now she leaves London as Olympic champion as the Chinese justified her inclusion ahead of Wang Shixian. What Li Xuerui brings is a trait that is rarely seen in Chinese players, an absolute desire to win that surpasses her talents and ability.
Cai and Fu achieved the final piece of their careers with an Olympic gold, the only title that the Chinese pair had never won. They lost in the final in Beijing four years ago and had to wait until now to redeem themselves, which they did in spectacular fashion as they won gold without the loss of a game.
Indian badminton will consider this a triumph for what they have achieved, with Kashyup Parupalli’s run to the quarterfinals and with Saina Nehwal’s bronze medal. With high hopes going into the 2013 World Championship in Guangzhou as well as the remainder of the 2012 season.
Alex Bruce and Michelle Li were the story of the women’s doubles in the aftermath of the group phase scandal. Their semi-final match was a testament to what the Olympics set out to achieve – despite their defeat to Fujii and Kakiiwa, they had inspired a generation.
Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier came into the Olympics with medal expectations, those expectations were tempered after an opening match defeat and before several of the world’s best singles players had set foot on court, their dream was over. Their success in 2011 was partly due to the lack of expectation and the surprise of their unlikely run to the World Championship final, there was nothing like that in 2012. A nation expected.
Lee Chong Wei came within two points of an Olympic title, only for Lin Dan to snatch glory from the Malaysian’s grasp for the second year running. It is perhaps not has heartbreaking as his defeat in 2011, where he did have a match point in the final but his reaction after his final shot was one of total dejection. Comforted by his coaches as he was forced to watch Lin Dan celebrate in his defeat. Only one final chance in Guangzhou waits for the Malaysian to claim a major title.
Lee Yong Dae and Chung Jae Sung were touted as the favourites for the men’s doubles titles going into the Olympics. Lee Yong Dae’s mixed doubles campaign lasted a mere three games but in the men’s doubles, the Korean pair breezed into the semi finals only to be outdone by the brilliance of an inspired Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen. They ended up with the bronze medal, with the Olympics being Chung Jae Sung’s final event as Lee Yong Dae will have a new partner after this week.
Indonesia will leave London without an Olympic medal, with the failures of Taufik Hidayat, Simon Santoso and the mixed doubles pairing of Ahmad and Natsir failing to secure a bronze medal against Fischer and Pedersen.
Peter Gade’s Olympic career came to an end at the quarterfinal stage, with Chen Long defeating the Dane in two games in a match that Gade claims he played some of his best badminton in recent memory. Just three events remain in the legendary career of Peter Gade – Japan, France and a final farewell in Denmark.
The Disgraced Eight
The criticism that has been widespread is not that they opted to lose the matches, but the manner in how they chose to do it. The distain and arrogance on show to blatantly throw the matches with serving into the net and not allowing a rally of more than four points has questioned the professionalism of every badminton player, not just the eight players expelled.
The feeling from within badminton is that given the opportunity to do it once again, all of the pairs would have no problem doing it again. The counterargument is that they are ultimately playing for an Olympic gold medal, which is four years of work and that after putting in so much effort to reach the Olympics – the possibility of making the job easier in one that should be taken.
The Chinese squad, wanted gold and silver from the women’s doubles which was indeed achievable. The Korean and Indonesian pairs merely wanted to avoid the Chinese pairs in the later stages. This all stemmed from a match earlier in the day between Pedersen and Rytter Juhl, who defeated Tian and Zhao in their group. Little did they know that the effect of that victory would eliminate four of their biggest rivals in the next 24 hours as well.
Yu Yang has allegedly retired, walking away from the game that she adores. Wang Xiaoli has promised to regain people’s trust in her and in the middle of it Li Yongbo takes sole responsibility for the actions of his players. It has been a problem throughout the Olympic qualification process, with phantom injuries leading to walkovers.
What the BWF have done with this landmark decision is opened the door for more walkovers instead of these farcical matches but also forced sporting integrity to be upheld. There will undoubtedly be a change to the format of the competition in Rio come 2016, but there will be little change in the nations that dominate the sport as China claimed all five gold medals in London.
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 first medals were awarded as the mixed doubles reached it’s conclusion, with the current world champions claiming Olympic gold over their Chinese rivals and team mates.
Zhang and Zhao Claim Gold
The 2011 world champions became the 2012 Olympic champions, claim both titles inside Wembley Arena. Their opponents this time around were Xu and Ma, who were defeated in the semi finals 12 months previously. What many hoped would be a tightly fought contest were left disappointed, as Zhang and Zhao outclassed their Chinese team mates in a 21-11, 21-17 victory.
The bronze medal was won by Joachim Fischer Neilsen and Christinna Pedersen of Denmark, who defeated Ahmad and Natsir in another one-sided match to ensure at least one European medal, with the world number 4 pairing winning 21-12, 21-12.
All Chinese Finals In Women’s Singles
One space was guaranteed for the Chinese, as Wang Xin took on Li Xuerui in the second semi final. Wang Yihan ensured an all-Chinese final with an excellent two game victory over Saina Nehwal of India, with the world number 5 being the sole hope remaining to ensure there wouldn’t be a Chinese monopoly of the medals.
Li Xuerui continued her stunning form in 2012 with a two game victory over her higher ranked team mate Wang Xin in two tight games to book her place in the final against Wang Yihan. It will be their 8th meeting between the two, with Wang Yihan leading 4-3 but Li Xuerui has won the previous three occasions, with their last meeting being a two game victory in the Indonesian Super Series Premier.
Lee Against Lin
It will their 30th encounter between the top two players in the world in a repeat of the 2008 Olympic final as Lin Dan takes on Lee Chong Wei. Both players comfortably defeated their semi final opponents in two games, with Lee Chong Wei defeating Chen Long whilst Lin Dan defeated Lee Hyun Il.
It will be the first time in the sports history in the Olympics that the same two players will play for the gold medal in two consecutive Olympics in what could potentially be the final match of their historic rivalry.
There were 4 eliminations before play even begun today, with the disqualification of all four pairs in the women’s doubles accused of match fixing. That allowed the 3rd and 4th placed pairs from Group A and C into the quarter finals at their expense.
An inspired Lee Chong Wei answered all of his critics in his second round masterclass against Simon Santoso, with the top seeded Malaysian comfortably booking his place in the last 8 with a two game victory. Kashyup Parupalli awaits the top seed in the quarter finals, with the Indian defeating Sri Lanka’s Niluka Karunaratne in three games to offer India a second hope of a medal in the singles events.
The last 16 saw exits for Jan O Jorgensen, Marc Zwiebler, Kevin Cordon and most noticably Taufik Hidayat who was defeated by Lin Dan in his final Olympic appearance of the Indonesian’s career. Chen Long and Chen Jin ensured a trio of Chinese players in the last 8, with the 3rd seeded Chen Long taking on Peter Gade in the quarter finals in what could be Gade’s final appearance at the Olympics also.
The biggest casualty of the last 16 was Germany’s Juliane Schenk, with Inthanon Ratchanok ending the run of the 6th seed at the second round in a two game victory for the 9th seeded Thai. Yip Pui Yin defeated Pi Honygan to further reduce any chance of European success, the unseeded player from Hong Kong takes on the 3rd seeded Li Xuerui in the quarter finals.
Wang Yihan faught back from a game down to ensure her place in the last 8 at the expense of Bae Youn Joo and set up a world championship rematch from last year against Cheng Shao Chieh. Tine Baun became the final European player left in the draw after Sayaka Sato retired from their match whilst leading 15-14 but the Danes task in the quarter final will be much harder as Baun takes on Saina Nehwal in the last 8. The Indian 4th seed defeated Yao Jie of Holland to reach the quarter finals and set up a matchup against Baun.
Without winning a game in Group A, Michelle Li and Alex Bruce are into the semi finals of the women’s doubles after a two game victory over Australia’s Veeran and Choo to set up their match against Fujii and Kakiiwa of Japan. The 4th seeded Japanese pair ended the run of Denmark’s Rytter Juhl and Pedersen in two games to set up their semi final against the Canadians.
The other semi final features Vislova and Sorokina, who came third in Group A but defeated Viljoen and Edwards to reach the last 4 and take on the 2nd seeded Tian and Zhao of China, who defeated Cheng and Chien of Chinese Taipei in two games.
The four seeded pairs remain in the mixed doubles, with Xu and Ma coming closest to elimination after surviving a match point in order to defeat Mateusiak and Zieba of Poland. Their reward for victory is a semi final match against Ahmad and Natsir, who defeated Fuchs and Michels in two games to book safe passage into the last 4.
Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen are the sole European hope, after their victory over Prapakamol and Thoungthongkam of Thailand but will take on the current world champions Zhang and Zhao who ended the campaign of the 2009 world champions and Danish team mates Laybourn and Rytter Juhl.
The great British dream ended at the group stages, but the show must go on. 32 players and 24 pairs remain to fight for five gold medals as the world’s elite face one another to edge ever closer to a medal.
Simon Santoso is the latest player to have his chance at Lee Chong Wei, with a pair of impressive victories whilst the top seed struggled past Ville Lang and the rest of the field now know what Lee Chong Wei’s limitations are. The other side of the draw offers the match of the day tomorrow, as the 2008 Olympic champion Lin Dan takes on the 2004 Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat in what could be the Indonesian’s final match of his historic career.
Another player in the twilight of his career is Peter Gade, who takes on Shon Wan Ho in his second round encounter with the winner of Wong Wing Ki and Chen Long waiting in the last 8. Two more Europeans will hope to keep a continents dream alive as Jan O Jorgensen and Marc Zwiebler take on higher seeded Asian opponents tomorrow, with the Dane taking on Lee Hyun Il whilst the German takes on the 4th seeded Chen Jin.
Only Wang Yihan and Wang Xin had the luxury of a group of two, the other 14 women had to progress from groups of 3 with only two seeds falling at the opening hurdle. One of those seeds was Petya Nedelcheva, who was knocked out by Indonesia’s Adrianti Firdasari – who takes on the 2nd seed, Wang Xin in the second round. The top seeded Wang Yihan takes on Bae Youn Joo of Korea in her last 16 match, with a potential world championship rematch with Cheng Shao Chieh waiting in the quarter finals.
Saina Nehwal and Tine Baun are just one victory away from facing one another at the last 8 stage. The Indian takes on Yao Jie in her second round match whilst Baun takes on Sayako Sato of Japan. Yip Pui Yin is the only other unseeded player left in the draw after defeating Sung Ji Hyun in the group stages, the Hong Kong player takes on Pi Hongyan for a place in the last 8.
With the group stages complete, the manipulation of the draw will cease and a winner will be crowned. The marquee match of the day sees the top seeded Wang and Yu take on the 3rd seeded Ha and Kim, with the top seeds losing their final group game to ensure they could not take on their Chinese team-mates until the final. Tian and Zhao take on Chien and Cheng of Chinese Taipei in the half of the draw where they are the only seeds in it, whilst the final seeds – Fujii and Kakiiwa take on the Danish pair of Rytter Juhl and Pedersen, who topped Group D.
The four seeds all won their group and will avoid playing one another at least for another round but there is a refreshing mix of pairs left in the draw but without the defending champion Lee Yong Dae. Four European pairs take on four Asian pairs for a battle of continental supremacy with the 2011 world champions Zhang and Zhao taking on the 2009 world champions Laybourn and Rytter Juhl for a place in the last 4 and a potential all-Danish semi final. 4th seeded Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen take on the Thai pairing of Prapakamol and Thoungthongkam for a place in the last 4 as the only European seed hope to keep European hopes alive.
Xu and Ma take on current European champions, Mateusiak and Zieba of Germany whilst the 4th quarter final features the 3rd seeded Ahmad and Natsir taking on the German pairing of Fuchs and Michels, the higher ranked left in the draw at 22.
The big names in the men’s and women’s singles finally made their entrances to the Olympics on day 3, with a few scares and surprises along the way as the group stage entered the latter stages before Wednesday’s knockout rounds.
Session 1 – Tago Crashes Out
The top two seeds in the women’s singles both begun their campaigns in the opening sessions, as Wang Yihan and Wang Xin progressed safely into the last 16 with a pair of comprehensive victories. The biggest shock of the men’s singles so far took place this morning, as the 8th seeded Kenichi Tago crashed out at the hands of Sri Lanka’s Niluka Karunaratne, ranked 40 places higher than his Japanese opponent.
Tian and Zhao as well as Fischer Nielsen and Pedersen edged closer to qualification with victories in their second group matches whilst Kim and Jung secured their place in the last 16 in Group A of the women’s doubles, with a final group match against Wang and Yu to confirm first and second in the group.
Session 2 – Lin Dan Into Last 16
Lin Dan begun his campaign against Ireland’s Scott Evans in a one-sided match to book his place in the last 16 whilst Yip Pui Yin shocked the 8th seeded Sung Ji Hyun to top Group J and reach the last 16. Lee Yong Dae’s defence of the mixed doubles ended with a defeat to Laybourn and Rytter Juhl, which secured the Danes progression into the quarter finals.
The fate of Group B in the men’s doubles hung in the balance as Logosz and Cwalina were in a three-game battle with Jongjit and Issara of Thailand before an injury to Michal Logosz resulted in the end of the match and the end of the Olympics for the Polish pair. They have forfeited their final match against Ahsan and Septano which eliminates the 4th seeded Ko and Yoo from the Olympics.
Session 3 – Lee Chong Wei Survives Scare
The “state secret” over Lee Chong Wei’s ankle was revealed on court this evening, with a far from convincing three game victory over Finland’s Ville Lang which will ask more questions than it will answer with the Malaysian looking out of sorts on court. Peter Gade is safely into the last 16 with a two game victory over Portugal’s Pedro Martins.
Saina Nehwal, Juliane Schenk and Chen Jin all booked their places in the last 16 of their events – with all three players securing top spot in their groups with routine two game victories. Ko and Yoo became Korea’s third big name exit of the day with defeat to Ahsan and Septano to ensure the Indonesian’s place in the last 8.
Day 4 will end the group phase and potentially some careers of the likes of Taufik Hidayat could be in action for the last time whilst the long-awaited rematch between Zhang and Zhao taking on the British pairing of Bankier and Adcock is for nothing more than pride for the British pair.
Day 3 Results:
Michael Jordan. Roger Federer. Muhammed Ali. Tiger Woods.
Lin Dan could join the echelons of sporting greats with a victory on August 5 in Wembley Arena. Regardless of badminton’s stigma as a minority sport – especially in Europe, Lin Dan’s achievements transcend his sport with the magnitude of his success. A superstar in his native China, he is already a 4-time world champion and reigning Olympic champion but he plays for something that no player before him can boast nor claim.
Retaining his Olympic title will make him an immortal of the sport and he will become the benchmark of what can be achieved within badminton. His victory in Beijing four years ago was shrouded in controversy before the Olympics began. A bust-up with his national coach; Ji Xinpeng had fans and media questioning his selection for the 2008 Olympics.
The bust-up was over practice matches and Lin Dan’s thirst for success, even in training. His attitude and outbursts divided fans of the sport, with some claiming he was simply spoiled in China, although he was revered as a sporting superstar for a population of over one and a half billion.
His “bad boy” status within the game has always received mixed appraisals but in Beijing four years ago, he produced one of the single greatest performances the sport had ever seen. He played with arrogance and with an aura of the best player in the world, in his home nation with almost a quarter of the world’s population hoping for a Chinese gold.
What he provided in the final was an absolute master class. All of his antics off the court forgotten for one night when he destroyed Lee Chong Wei 21-12, 21-8 in the most one-sided of their 29 matches. He could have gone into the second game interval 11-0 up if not for a careless cross net shot clipping the cord.
His salute upon victory to all four corners of the capacity stadium was a symbol of being a solider of his nation, China but also for the crowd to accept who he was – a player that thrives on success. He would do anything to succeed whether it was the right or wrong way to conduct himself.
Immortality would be assured with a gold medal in London but defeat would paint a different picture. It is known that anyone could beat any other person on any given day. Even the great Lin Dan is mortal and could be defeated. Defeat would open up the subject of who is the greatest player in the world. Rightly or wrongly, at this point, if the Malaysian Lee Chong Wei was to win gold in London, then he too would have to be considered.
Recent times have seen a change in Lin Dan. Instead of rackets or a punch being thrown, his shirt has been thrown into the crowd, for example at the Thomas Cup in May or at Beijing four years previously. The calming influence of his wife, Xie Xingfang has been credited with his change in temperament.
Lin Dan will make the trip to Shaoshan to pray for the legendary Chinese leader – Mao Zedong’s blessing. In 2004, before the Athens Olympics, he took this trip for granted, choosing to remain in the team bus playing cards. He then promptly lost in the opening round. Learning this valuable lesson, he is now one of the first Chinese Olympians to seek the blessing of Mao Zedong.
Some feel it is perhaps a blessing to have such a player in our lifetimes, whilst others claim he is a spoilt child blessed with a gift. He will arrive in London with countless nicknames, one half of the “Condor Couple” with Xie Xingfang, “Super Dan”, Lieutenant Colonel in the People’s Liberation Army, world number 1 and also favourite for the title in London.
His only wish is for one name, 2012 Olympic Champion.
Immortality will follow soon after.
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.
Enigmatic, Controversial, Genius, Shocking, Greatest Ever. Words that surround the career of the Chinese superstar and current Olympic champion Lin Dan and divide fans like no other player in badminton. At just 28, he has won every major honour that his discipline can offer him several times over, all that remains is a second Olympic gold to cement his place as the greatest ever player.
On the court, there is nothing quite like Lin Dan in full stride. His victory over his rival Lee Chong Wei in Beijing four years ago was perhaps the single greatest performance we’d ever seen on a badminton court but there is the other side to Lin Dan, the arrogant and petulant side that divides fans of the sport.
An incident in the 2008 Korean Open final that resulted in Lin Dan going match point down after a poor line call resulted in an altercation between the coaches and Lin Dan having to be restrained by BWF officials. His outburst and then assault of the Chinese coach Ji Xinpeng just three months before the Beijing Olympics in 2008 had fans and critics alike demanding that he be withdrawn from the Thomas Cup team and then he shouldn’t participate in the 2008 Games at all.
Few people question his ability on the badminton court, already a 4-time world champion at just 28 years old and talk of retirement should he claim his second gold medal in London has quietened over recent months but the possibility looms that “Super Dan” might have his final swansong in Wembley Arena.
Would A Gold Cement His Legacy?
Nobody has ever defended an Olympic gold in the men’s singles, just like nobody has had as much success as Lin Dan within the sport. A gold medal cements his place as the greatest player of this generation. The critics will claim that Lee Chong Wei has been just as successful, but the lack of world and Olympic titles tilts the argument to Lin Dan, even more so with a second gold in London
Can Anyone Stop Lin Dan?
The biggest question going into the men’s singles is Lee Chong Wei and his ankle injury. A 100% fit Lee Chong Wei would have been a genuine contender for the gold medal but it is unknown as to what standard of fitness and confidence Lee Chong Wei has in his ankle or in his Olympic hopes. Even then Lin Dan holds a 19-9 record over Lee Chong Wei going into the Olympics, winning four of their last five meetings.
Will This Be Lin Dan’s Final Tournament?
Lin Dan himself has denied that he plans to retire as recently as 3 weeks ago but this is almost certainly his final Olympics. His playing schedule has slowly decreased over the past few years, just as his list of withdrawals and retirements has increased also. He has promised another year after the Olympics, which means that there is life after the Olympics for one of the greatest rivalries within the game.