Race to Rio: Chen Leads, Lee Close Behind

Thursday, January 14, 2016
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO

Thanks to his stunning sequence of World Superseries victories in October and November, Lee Chong WeiChen Long-v is currently No.2 in the Olympic qualifying race to Rio.

The Malaysian (featured image), winner of successive Superseries in France, China and Hong Kong, accumulated 73753 points from the beginning of the Olympic qualifying period, behind China’s World No.1 Chen Long, who leads the race with 86021 points. Lee had fallen to world No.180 in June but spectacularly worked his way back into the top 5 within six months.

The Olympic qualification period takes into account performances from 4 May 2015 to 1 May 2016. The current standings, which reflect performances since the beginning of the qualifying period to the first week of January, will change with several tournaments remaining in the qualifying period.

Chen and Lee are followed by Japan’s Kento Momota, Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen, Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen, Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen and defending champion, China’s Lin Dan. The others in the top 10 list are Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto, Korea’s Son Wan Ho and Hong Kong’s Hu Yun.

A National Olympic Committee (NOC) can field a maximum of two players/pairs per category if both are ranked in the top 16 of singles or top 8 of doubles.

Ng Ka Long

Apart from China and Denmark, Hong Kong and Korea too have two players each in contention at the moment – Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long, thanks to his stupendous show at his home Superseries, has shot up to No.11, while Korea’s Lee Dong Keun is at No.15.

Ygor Coelho De OliveiraIndia’s sole representative is K Srikanth in 12th place; his compatriots Ajay Jayaram (21), Kashyap Parupalli (28), Sai Praneeth (29) and HS Prannoy (40) can still nurse hopes of qualifying.

The initial number of athletes in each singles category is 38 (before reallocation of quota places to singles for athletes participating in both singles and doubles), while in each doubles category it is 32 (16 pairs). Three Tripartite Commission Invitation places are available to eligible NOCs in each singles category besides host country places. Hosts Brazil are entitled to one place in each singles category should they not be able to qualify on ranking.

The list of initially qualified athletes/pairs for each event (including continental representation places, host country places and Tripartite Commission Invitation places) will be published as part of the world ranking lists of 5 May 2016.

On current standing, Brazil’s Men’s Singles spearhead Ygor Coelho de Oliveira is in 29th place and won’t need the host country quota to qualify; his compatriot in Women’s Singles, Fabiana Silva, likewise will not require the quota as she is in 26th place.

The continental representatives are Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon (Pan Am, 22); Uganda’s Edwin Ekiring (Africa, 35) and Australia’s Low Pit Seng (Oceania, 37).

In Women’s Singles, World champion Carolina Marin (Spain) leads the pack with 76,522 points, ahead ofCarolina Marin-v the three Chinese: Wang Yihan, Li Xuerui and Wang Shixian. As only two of the three will head to Rio, Dubai World Superseries champion Nozomi Okuhara (Japan) will move up to fourth place, followed by Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun, Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, India’s Saina Nehwal, Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying, Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi and Korea’s Bae Yeon Ju.

Canada’s Michelle Li, the icon of Pan Am badminton, is in 11th, followed by PV Sindhu, who will qualify as the second Indian behind Nehwal. China, Japan, Korea and India therefore will have two players each.

As the Race to Rio heads into its final stretch, there will be intriguing contests among teammates for the prized place. A number of Japanese players are in contention: apart from Okuhara and Yamaguchi, the other main contenders are Minatsu Mitani (14), Sayaka Sato (15), Yui Hashimoto (17) and Sayaka Takahashi (28).

Kate Foo Kune of Mauritius in in 28th and will satisfy the continental representation place for Africa if she holds her spot. Likewise, Australia’s Wendy Chen, in 36th place, will satisfy the quota for Oceania.

Kate Foo Kune2

Click here for Race to Rio standings.

Coming Up: Doubles Standings in Race to Rio