Race to Rio: Close Call for Doubles Contenders

Monday, January 18, 2016
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO

The Olympic qualifying race is especially close for doubles players from traditional powerhouses.Koo Kien Keat & Tan Boon Heong-v

With each National Olympic Committee (NOC) able to field a maximum of two pairs only if both are in the top 8 of the world rankings at the end of the qualifying period (1 May 2016), it will be a struggle for elite pairs from strongholds such as Korea, China, Indonesia and Denmark to hold off their closely-matched rivals in the top 10. Each doubles category will be contested by 16 pairs.

A good example is that of Denmark’s Mads Pieler Kolding/Mads Conrad-Petersen, who, despite being ranked No.9 in the Race to Rio standings, will fail to make the grade if they remain behind compatriots Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen (8).

(The Race to Rio standings reflect the performance of the pairs from the start of the Olympic qualifying season, 4 May 2015, and will change over the next few months as several tournaments remain until the end of the qualifying period, 1 May 2016.)

The doubles categories will therefore see keen contests unfolding over the next few months as players will constantly be looking over their shoulders.

Sattawat Pongnairat & Phillip ChewKorea’s Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong, who had a dream season with six Superseries titles last year, head the race with 90,980 points, ahead of World champions Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan (Indonesia). China’s Fu Haifeng/Zhang Nan and Chai Biao/Hong Wei, Korea’s Kim Gi Jung/Kim Sa Rang and Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa follow.

Denmark have a shot at getting two pairs in. Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen (featured image) are at world No.8, while Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Pieler Kolding are close behind but will have to vault over their compatriots or supplant them at No.8 if they are to qualify.

Another close contest could be between the two Malaysian pairs. Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong (11) lead Koo Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong (12) by a slim margin.

Other names, such as India’s Manu Attri/Sumeeth Reddy, Russia’s Vladimir Ivanov/Ivan Sozonov and England’s Marcus Ellis/Chris Langridge are comfortably ahead of their compatriots.

Each doubles event should have at least one pair from each of the five BWF Continental Confederations, provided the pair is ranked 50 or above at the end of the qualifying period. USA’s Sattawat Pongnairat/Phillip Chew (Pan Am, 32) and South Africa’s Andries Malan/Willem Viljoen (Africa, 45) will satisfy their continent’s quota on current standings.

Setyana Mapasa & Gronya Somerville

Women’s Doubles might see a few surprises. Only one Chinese pair – Luo Ying/Luo Yu –will make the grade on current standings, as their compatriots are all well behind, primarily since China’s pairs were experimented with over the last few months.

Eva Lee & Paula Lynn ObananaIndonesia’s Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari are the surprise leaders, followed by Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl; the Luo twins; Japan’s Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi; Korea’s Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee and Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan; Netherlands’ Eefje Muskens/Selena Piek and a second Japanese pair, Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao. A third Japanese pair, Shizuka Matsuo/Mami Naito, are close behind at No.9.

Reigning Olympic champions Tian Qing/Zhao Yunlei have some catching up to do as they are at No.14, behind compatriots Ma Jin/Tang Yuanting (No.10).

USA’s Eva Lee Lee/Paula Lynn Obanana will qualify in 14th place and satisfy the Pan Am quota, while Australia’s Setyana Mapasa/Gronya Somerville, being Oceania’s highest ranked pair and within the top 50, will make the list, alongside Egypt’s Menna Eltanany/Nadine Ashraf (47) as the qualifiers from Africa.

China have no problems in Mixed Doubles, boasting of three pairs in the top six: defending champions Robert Mateusiak & Nadiezda Zieba-vZhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei (1), Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin (3) and Xu Chen/Ma Jin (6).  Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na (2); Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir (4); England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock (5) are the other pairs in the forefront, followed by Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto (7), Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen (8) and Hong Kong’s Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah (9).

Jacco Arends/Selena Piek (Netherlands, 13); Michael Fuchs/Birgit Michels (Germany, 14); Robert Mateusiak/Nadiezda Zieba (15) and Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying (Malaysia, 16) are also in line to qualify.

Pan Am’s continental quota could be taken by Phillip Chew/Jamie Subandhi (USA, 23), while Australia’s Robin Middleton/Leanne Choo (29) are placed to satisfy Oceania’s quota. Egypt’s Abdelrahman Kashkal/Hadia Hosny (43) will qualify as the highest ranked pair from Africa.

Abdelrahman Kashkal & Hadia Hosny