Crumbling dynasty: China out of women’s doubles and facing badminton blues
Stranglehold on the game looks over as Danes give Europe hope of a first Olympic title in 20 years
China’s sub-par Olympics continued on Tuesday with more shock results and another unwanted landmark in one of the sports they traditionally dominate, badminton.
For the first time since women’s doubles was introduced in 1992, China won’t have a team in the final. They’ve won the gold at every Olympics since 1996.
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That defeat was in the morning – in the evening, Wang Yihan, the No. 2 seed, was stunned in the women’s singles quarter-finals by India’s Sindhu Pusarla, the No. 9 seed.
That left Li Xuerui (seeded three) as the only China player able to take home the women’s gold – the last time China failed to win it was 1996.
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On Monday, their mixed doubles pair of Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei failed to make the final. China have won three of the five golds on offer since the mixed was introduced in 1996. There was some scant consolation on Tuesday as they won the bronze with a routine win.
Wang, the silver medallist at London 2012 (after losing to Li), was at a loss to explain her defeat to the 21-year-old.
And China’s failure to dominate as in the past was similarly perplexing.
“I’ve tried my best today, and just done my best. It’s very normal, there’s always ups and downs, it’s hard, and my opponent performed well,” Wang said.
“It happens. Sometimes we lose (so) it is normal. The last time (we played) I lost against her, so you cannot say I will win for sure because sometimes it happens.
“I think our team has performed in the Games, we’ve done our best and tried to put on a good performance for the fans.”
Asked about the pressure facing herself and Li heading into Rio from a country that expects nothing but gold in the badminton, Wang said: “Of course, we have had some pressure because we are the only two players here.
“Of course, we hoped maybe we would play well for our country. As for the future, I will think about that later.”
The Indian, roared on by a surprisingly large contingent of fans, said: “Badminton is my passion and it’s the Olympics so everybody has come here to win.
“It’s my first Olympics and I just have to do my best and play my game. I’m doing it so let’s see what happens. Fitness-wise everything is fine.”
In the women’s doubles, Tang Yuanting and Yu Yang were stunned in the semis by Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen, even though the Danish pair gave up four match points in the deciding game.
Denmark won 21-16, 14-21, 21-19 to guarantee the country only its fifth ever Olympic medal in the sport. They will play Japan’s Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi in the final on Thursday.
Spanish world champion Carolina Marin beat South Korea’s Sung Ji-hyun 21-12, 21-16 to book a semi-final in the women’s singles.
“It seems like Europe is starting to go up and it’s really important that it isn’t Chinese always in the final,” world number one Carolina Marin laughed after booking her place in the semis.
No European shuttler has topped the Olympic podium since Danish great Poul-Erik Hoyer Larsen shoched China’s Dong Jiong in the men’s singles at Atlanta in 1996.
“It’s huge. We talked about it before the tournament. Not that we were thinking we would be in the final, but that it might not be China to win this gold medal,” said Pedersen.
“I think that is a good thing for ladies doubles if China is not dominating as totally as they were.”
China swept all five golds on offer at London 2012, but the best they’ll be able to do in Rio is three.
On a dire morning, Chai Bao and Hong Wei were beaten in the men’s doubles semis by Tan Wee Kiong and Goh V Shem of Malaysia – at least another China pair, Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan, did make the final.
Zhang denied that the women’s failure added extra pressure on himself and Fu.
“It was nothing very special because I want to enjoy the Olympic Games and be in the final so I just want to be in the best condition.”
Fu added after the victory over Great Britain’s Marcus Ellis and Chris Landridge (21-14, 21-18): “It’s very good because we finally go into the final and that’s my dream.”
“It is my third time in the final and my partner has been the Olympic champion so we can handle it.”