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.
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 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.
The European dream of gold in London has faded with every passing day, but today was the end of any chances in the singles with the defeats of Tine Baun and Peter Gade.
Chen Long ended Peter Gade’s Olympic career with a classy two game victory over the Dane, who claimed after the match that he played some of his best badminton of the year in is defeat. Chen Long’s reward is a semi-final against the world number 1 Lee Chong Wei, who ended Kashyup Parupalli’s fairytale run at the Olympics in two games to ensure a medal for at least one of the two semi finalists.
Lin Dan secured his place in the semi final with a three game victory over Sho Sasaki, but any hopes of an all-Chinese semi final were derailed by Lee Hyun Il who ended Chen Jin’s campaign in a tight two game victory to book his place in the last 4.
The four best players in the world have all reached the semi final stage, with only the second seeded Wang Xin dropping a game in today’s matches. Wang Xin needed three games to end the run of the 17-year old Inthanon Ratchanok, who looks to be a star for the future for her native Thailand. Li Xuerui will take on Wang Xin in the semi finals after the 3rd seed defeated Yip Pui Yin of Hong Kong to reach the last 4.
Wang Yihan has a repeat performance in Wembley Arena against Cheng Shao Chieh in her semi final, with the Chinese top seed securing a straight forward two game victory to reach the semi finals. Saina Nehwal takes on the top seeded Chinese player in the last 4 after ending Tine Baun’s run at the quarter final stage, with the Dane celebrating a line call that would have won her the second game prematurely which resulted in Saina Nehwal saving multiple game points before winning the match on her first match point.
The top three pairs in the world all secured their place in the last 4, where they are also joined by the Commonwealth champions Koo and Tan of Malaysia. The unseeded Koo and Tan take on Cai and Fu in the first of the semi finals, with both pairs successfully negotiating their way into the last 4 with tight two game victories. Lee and Chung take on Boe and Mogensen in the second semi final, with both pairs also coming through their matches in two games to set up their 17th meeting against one another.
The impossible and improbable dream of Alex Bruce and Michelle Li almost became a reality, as they took Fujii and Kakiiwa to three games and booked their place in the bronze medal playoff. The Japanese pair will take on the world number 2 pairing of Tian and Zhao in Saturday’s gold medal match after the Chinese pair disposed of Vislova and Sorokina in a one-sided match.
The first medals will be won in tomorrow’s afternoon session as the two best pairs in the world face off in an all-Chinese gold medal match. Both pairs needed three games to defeat their opponents, with Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen taking on Ahmad and Natsir in the bronze medal match in the morning session. Xu and Ma will take on Zhang and Zhao in a rematch of the world championship semi final held in this arena a year ago. It will be their 11th meeting, with the defending world champions Zhang and Zhao winning 8 of their 10 meetings to date.
Updated with video:
Faster, Higher, Stronger. The motto of the Olympics were tarnished and shamed with the performance of Wang Xiaoli, Yu Yang, Kim Ha Na and Jung Kyung Eun. With top spot on offer in Group A, the two pairs gave one of the most disgraceful performances in the history of the sport and both capitulated resulting in neither pair wanting to win.
It was about how fast the Chinese pair could get off could, how high they think of themselves against the rest of the field and how strong they believed in the actions they chose to do on court. From when the Chinese pair took to the court after their introductions until both pair were viciously booed off court took under 30 minutes.
The warm-up offered no clue as to what lay ahead, as Kim served to Wang to start the match.
Wang Xiaoli clumsily drives Kim’s opening serve into the net to begin proceedings. Yu Yang signals with her right hand to Wang Xiaoli as she shadows a drive motion.
Yu Yang plays a lazy net shot from waist height into the net, before looking to the ground to suggest she thought it might have been short.
Kim Ha Na serves into the net.
Yu Yang’s serve is taken at knee-high by Jung, resulting in a mediocre drop from Wang that hits the bottom of the net, resulting in the Chinese player looking at the lights and claiming that was the reason for the poor shot.
Jung Kyung Eun flick serves down the line to Yu Yang, whilst the Chinese player watches the shuttle drop in before looking at the line judge for confirmation. The replay shows it was more than 3 inches in.
Jung serves to Wang, who pushes a full swing lift to the back which Kim soft drops back to the service line only for Yu Yang to half-push the shuttle into the middle of the net. The first boos ring out from the crowd at this point, with that being the longest rally of the match at 4 strokes.
Jung serves to Yu, who plays a knee-high lift to around three quarters deep into the Korean court whilst moving backwards resulting in a lazy drop from Kim landing in the middle of the net.
Wang serves to Kim, who plays an attacking push to the mid-court for a winner. Yu Yang looks to her partner whilst the Korean pair celebrate a winning point for the first time in the match.
Kim Ha Na is called for a service fault and offers a half-hearted motion of her service motion to the service judge.
Yu Yang serves into the net.
Jung serves to Yu, who drives the shuttle at Kim resulting in a drop return that clips the top of the cord that barely affects the shuttle but results in a push from Yu Yang going into the net.
Jung Kyung Eun is called for a service fault. She makes no attempt to contest the call.
Wang serves to Jung, who plays a knee-high lift deep into Yu Yang’s backhand corner. Yu plays a mid-court backhand clear into the centre of the court that Kim smashes into the middle of the net. Groans are heard throughout the arena.
Wang serves to Kim, who plays an flat lift almost off the carpet which Yu Yang looks certain to hit before realising just how far out the shot actually is.
Wang Xiaoli serves into the middle of the net. Ending the 3-point run of the Chinese pair.
Kim serves to Yu, who in a similar fashion to an earlier serve, plays a weak net shot that barely reaches the net. More whistles and jeers are heard.
Kim flicks Wang, who takes one step before lunging to dig-out a shot into the bottom of the net.
The mid-game interval shows the Korean coach complaining to the umpire about the Chinese “tactics” whilst the Chinese coaches spend around 15 seconds speaking to both players before returning to their chairs.
Kim Ha Na serves into the net.
Yu serves to Kim, who plays an attacking shot into the backhand rear corner of Wang, resulting in a weak drop to the middle of the court that Kim lifts out of the side of the court and lands on the carpet.
Yu Yang serves into the net. She shakes her head before firing the shuttle in between Jung’s legs to boos and jeers of the crowd.
Jung Kyung Eun serves into the net, whilst Yu Yang claims not to be ready for the serve. Jung Kyung Eun serves the next service – a flick serve out.
Wang Xiaoli serves into the net. It is at this point that the umpire finally gets involved, motioning all the players towards him to show his discontent at the match to date.
13-9 to 14-11
All four players take turns at serving into the net. The crowd have turned on both pairs, with sarcastic groans as well as general annoyance at the passage of play.
Kim Ha Na flicks her service out.
Yu Yang serves into the net. Yu Yang, as she had done for most of the first game begins a conversation with Wang Xiaoli who seemed the most bothered by what is transpiring on court.
At this point, one of the officials comes onto court to issue a warning to both players:
“We are here to play, to compete. If you don’t play, both teams can be disqualified, both teams can be disqualified and go out of the competition. Understand?”
.Jung serves to Wang, who for the first time in the match attacks a serve and hits a cross net winner. Cheers ring out from the crowd.
Wang Xiaoli serves into the net and promptly looks at her racket.
Expectations of more than a four shot rally are heightened, before Yu Yang hits a backhand shot that flies under the net. The Korean coach stands up and looks unimpressed.
Kim Ha Na serves off the carpet. The biggest boos of the match so far are heard.
Yu Yang serves into the net. Yet more boos are heard.
Hopes for another lengthy rally are quashed by Yu Yang’s drive flying into the net as the Chinese player seems to be instigating most of the tactics. The Chinese coaches look relaxed on their chairs as they watch the world number 1 pair face six game points.
Another four shot rally ends the opening game, with Wang pushing a shot into the top half of the net to ensure their defeat in the first game.
The first game interval sees the Korean coach sarcastically applaud Wang and Yu as he goes to speak to his players. The Chinese coaches spend 15 seconds conversing with Wang and Yu whilst the official reappears and threatens to disqualify both teams.
Both pairs appear back on court before the line judges have finished sweeping the court, almost a minute before the interval is over.
The second game is a more “competitive” contest, with the service faults disappearing and the average rally length almost tripling from the opening game. The Chinese lose the second game, with Yu Yang instigating most of the points that the world number 1 pairing lost.
The overall tone was one of a complete lack of care or respect at what they were doing and has put a black cloud over the rest of the competition.
Yu Yang later confirmed that their actions on course were to ensure an easier passage into the late rounds and that the pair had already qualified so there was no need to expend extra energy. It also meant that the Chinese pairs couldn’t meet until the final.
A second match was surrounded in controversy between Ha and Kim who took on Jauhari and Polii, with the winning pair set to take on Wang and Yu. Both pairs were black carded and were disqualified before being recinded and the 3rd seeded Ha and Kim won the match.
Tonight’s farce will almost ensure the end of group stages at major competitions, with the manipulation of the draw on show this evening. Several high-profile players have spoken out against the two matches, with some claiming that disqualification is the only option as given a similar situation the players would do it again and again.
The real loser tonight is badminton – it will make the headlines for all the wrong reasons as the competitions enters its knockout phase as the world’s elite pairings have somewhat successfully rigged a draw to ensure the possibility for gold and silver in certain events.
There were just 64 shots played in the opening game, with a passage of 9 consecutive service errors where the match referee was on court twice.
There are no winners tonight. Badminton must attempt to recover some pride in the remaining five days of play.
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:
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:
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.