New quota on players a setback for China's Olympic badminton hopes
Powerhouse China will be under pressure to try to maintain their stranglehold on the Olympic Games after the World Badminton Federation reduced the number of qualification quotas for next summer's Games in Rio de Janeiro.
China sent maximum quotas of three men's and women's players for the singles events at the London Games in 2012 and captured both gold medals, but they can qualify only two players in each event at the 2016 Games.
This follows a change of rules by the world governing body last week saying the new quota for singles players from the same National Olympic Committee will be two if both players are ranked in the world's top 16. The maximum two pairs from one country in the three doubles events remains.
"It will definitely put the mainlanders under pressure in the competition," said Hong Kong coach Tim He Yiming. "When they have three players in the event, they feel more secure psychologically because they can afford to lose two players and one of them can still reach the final.
"But it will be more difficult if they only have two in the draw. The same thing happens in the Asian Games where a maximum two entries from one nation are allowed and China always struggles to achieve the same level of success there as at the Olympics."
The coach said he would not speculate on whether the new rules were trying to make life more difficult for the Chinese shuttlers, but it would allow more players from different countries to compete at the highest level.
"China are the strongest power on the world stage and they are still the favourites in all five events in Rio," he said.
Lin Dan successfully defended his men's singles title at the London Games after beating rival Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia 2-1 in the final, while the women's title was an all-Chinese affair with Li Xuerui beating Wang Yihan.
The Chinese also clinched the three doubles titles, including the women's doubles where one of their two pairs - Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli - were disqualified for deliberating throwing one of their group matches.
Coach He said Hong Kong would still have a chance to qualify two men's singles players, providing Hu Yun, now ranked 10th in the world, can keep his form as the veteran will be 35 in 2016, and Wong Wing-ki can regain his best form. In the women's singles, they are still looking for another player to join Yip Pui-yin in the qualification process.