From bad to worse: China’s reigning Olympic badminton champion Li Xuerui beaten by world number one
Mainland team’s underachieving effort continues as Spain’s Carolina Marin defeats Chinese who appears to struggle with a knee injury during semi-final match
China’s Olympic underachievement continued early on Thursday morning Rio time – they will not be getting a gold in women’s badminton after reigning Olympic champion Li Xuerui was beaten by world No 1 Carolina Marin in the semi-finals.
China won a clean sweep of badminton medals in London 2012 in a sport they have traditionally dominated, but the most they can achieve now is two, in men’s singles and doubles.
“Just like what I have said before, our team has to try our best,” Li said about China’s woes. “Our Chinese team is strong. We have tried our best to perform well at the Olympics. These days the challenge is much more competitive worldwide. Every team is showing they are strong and powerful.”
Li appeared to be struggling with a knee injury. “I will receive treatment, so it is not a huge deal. I do not know what is wrong, I need a doctor to check it.”
She said of the biggest challenge against Marin: “The biggest challenge is myself.”
“I feel pretty lucky,” she added. “I enjoyed the whole process. I mean, after all, every player wants to stand in the Olympic stadium.”
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China missed out on women’s doubles gold for the first time since 1992 and both their pairs lost in the mixed semis. China have won three of the last five golds available in that event.
Double Olympic champion Lin Dan and Chen Long play in separate men’s semi-finals on Friday, while Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan will compete in the men’s doubles final later that day.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the final, but I feel emotional because I have worked so hard for this and I want to collect the reward tomorrow,” said Marin, who won 21-14, 21-16.
“It was an emotional match, I knew it was going to be a hard match. I felt very strong on the court. I was only thinking about what I had to do, on the strategy and everything that we planned as a team.
“She is the reigning Olympic champion, I just went out to enjoy the game and give my best.
“The most important thing today was to show her that I wanted to beat her and not see myself as less than her because it is clear that the Chinese dominate badminton, but if I show her that I want to win and not give up that also makes the coaches nervous. I maintained a confident body language throughout.”
Marin can become the first European woman to win badminton gold.
She added: “Today’s match was against an Olympic champion. She has been No 1 in the world. She was the one who had to defend her gold medal, I didn’t have the pressure of thinking about that.”
She will play India's V Sindhu Pusarla in the final.
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Meanwhile, adding insult to injury, China didn't even claim bronze in the men's doubles as Britain beat them.
Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge capped a brilliant tournament for Britain by stunning China’s Chai Biao and Hong Wei to clinch the medal.
The rank outsiders were thrilled to have just made the knockout rounds but showed they belonged at the business end of the tournament with a composed 21-18, 19-21 21-10 victory at the Riocentro.
“We had a big lead and you could see the tension on their faces. They’ve got so much pressure on them because China are the badminton nation, the superpowers. Britain are lower down that order,” an ecstatic Langridge said afterwards.
It was only Britain’s third ever Olympic badminton medal and first since Gail Emms and Nathan Robertson took mixed doubles silver at the 2004 Athens Games.
And China also lost the women's doubles bronze medal match, beaten by Korea.
Additional reporting: AFP