China go out with a whimper
Rob Woollard in Anaheim
Lin's 38-minute hiding caps disappointing championship for mainland team
China's World Championship campaign ended with a whimper yesterday as top seed Lin Dan was thrashed in the men's singles final by Indonesia's Taufik Hidayat to complete a disappointing tournament for the mainland.
Lin, the world number one, suffered one of the worst drubbings of his career in a surprisingly one-sided final, losing 15-3, 15-7 in 38 minutes at the Arrowhead Pond, as Hidayat proved that his 2004 Olympic Games gold was no flash in the pan.
Although Lin's girlfriend, Xie Xingfang, gave the 23-year-old something to smile about by upsetting top seed and defending champion Zhang Ning earlier in the day, China's medal haul fell far short of pre-tournament expectations.
Chinese badminton officials had talked bullishly of a possible clean sweep of the five golds on offer, but finished with just two, the mainland's lowest gold tally since 1999.
Head coach Li Yongbo played down the significance of his players' failure to win more golds, expressing confidence that China would return stronger than ever.
'I can't feel too bad as the young players got good experience here,' Li said. 'No team is going to win everything all the time. There are ups and downs for every country.
'The two finals we lost in the men's singles and the mixed doubles were against very strong teams. Hidayat is the Olympic champion so there is no shame in Lin losing.
'The players will come back stronger from the experience of playing in these finals.'
Although Li will probably be proved correct, only time will tell if Lin suffers any lasting psychological damage after getting thorough pasted by Hidayat, who becomes the first man to hold Olympic, World and Asian Games golds simultaneously.
The Indonesian stormed into a 13-0 lead in the first game and never eased up, with Lin looking horribly out of sorts. 'I don't think he showed his best form today,' said a puzzled Hidayat.
Lin said he had been worried by the windy conditions on court ahead of the match and had not properly prepared for Hidayat. 'I wasn't expecting to play so bad. I was thinking more about the wind, and decided to try to play cautiously at the start,' he said.. 'But I started making a lot of mistakes and that allowed Taufik to start attacking me more.'
After being comprehensively outgunned in the first game, Lin appeared to have regathered himself in the second, getting his trademark leaping smash working well to open up a 7-3 lead.
But just as Lin threatened to run away with the game and level the match at 1-1, his composure deserted him. Hidayat clawed his way back into contention before reeling off 12 unanswered points to take the title.
The only bright spot for Lin was girlfriend Xie's unexpected victory over reigning world and Olympic champion Zhang in the women's singles final.
Xie, the 24-year-old from Guangdong, downed her training partner and close friend Zhang 11-8, 9-11, 11-3, to win her first major crown.
The victory was especially sweet for Xie, who was controversially omitted from China's Olympic team last summer.
Xie however resisted the temptation to agree when asked if her world title crown proved that she should have been part of China's Athens squad.
'I don't have any regret about the Olympics last year,' Xie said. 'I wasn't playing well enough to get in the team and I fully respected the decision of the coaches not to choose me.'
Xie is now setting her sights on the 2008 Beijing Games. 'Every single game for me now is preparation for the Olympics,' she said.
The United States landed their first-ever world badminton title when the men's doubles duo of Tony Gunawan and Howard Bach defeated Indonesia's Candra Wijaya and Sigit Budiarto 15-11, 10-15, 15-11. Gunawan won men's doubles gold for Indonesia in 2001 but now represents the United States.