The anger Games: Chinese veteran Yu Yang screeches towards retirement after defeat in bronze medal match
Chinese athletes are known for being a disciplined bunch, almost to the point of being robotic.
And that’s why it was a surprise to many when Yu Yang yelled at her coaches and angrily threw her towel to the floor when she and partner Tang Yuanting were playing for a bronze medal in the badminton women’s doubles against South Korea on Thursday.
“I threw the towel on the floor because I am an irritable person,” Yu said after losing the match.
It was an important match for the 30-year-old – winner of women’s doubles gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as numerous world championships – who is retiring after Rio.
Her outpouring of emotion has highlighted the pressure Chinese Olympians in Rio, and in particular the badminton players, have faced to live up to the expectation their fans had in them in a sport which China has traditionally dominated.
China won golds in all five badminton categories at the 2012 London Olympics. But here in Rio, the most China has been able to achieve is a pair of golds – in men’s singles and doubles.
WATCH: golden moments on Day 12 at the Rio Olympics
Thursday’s match against less-experienced Korean opponents was not expected to be a difficult one.
But it turned out to be a slaughter for the Chinese players, who lost the first set 8-21and kissed goodbye to the bronze medal after going down 17-21 in the second.
“I have completed my last badminton match with regret. But that’s good. For me, it’s a good thing to pack up my stuff and leave badminton with regret,” Yu said.
Yu career has seen its ups and downs. In the 2012 London Olympics, she and then partner Wang Xiaoli were kicked out of the Games when they were among eight players disqualified for trying to lose round-robin matches in order to secure a more favourable draw in the knock-out stage.
They were angrily booed by the crowd as they continuously missed shots.
But despite missing out on a London Olympics medal, Yu was subsequently awarded an honour by China’s sports governing body for her achievements in sport.
Tang, a 22-year-old first-time Olympian, said Yu had “problems with her mental conditions” on the day of the bronze medal match.
However, Yu didn’t seem to be offended by Tang’s comment.
“I am a doubles player. This sport is not just about myself. Winning or losing, we both have to share the honour or shame,” wrote Yu on her Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo.
“[Tang] is my partner, a friend whom I have lived with together every day. No matter what happened we will stand shoulder to shoulder.”