Friday, August 19, 2016
TEXT BY GAYLE ALLEYNE I BADMINTONPHOTO & SHI TANG
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Malaysia’s Men’s Doubles duo suffered a bitter loss in today’s Olympic finale as they squandered two title-winning points to let China off the hook.
Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong took on the more experienced partnership of Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan and looked set to upstage the No.4 seeds for the Rio 2016 gold medal as they served for the title twice and botched both opportunities.
First, at 20-19 up, Tan served short. His partner also ran afoul on his next serve, agonisingly flicking the shuttle into the net at 21-20. Throngs of Malaysians ringing the perimeters of the Riocentro arena were visibly shocked at these mini-meltdowns and their gasps pierced the air.
The upshot: badminton powerhouse, China – in the unfamiliar position of not having won any of the three categories already decided – made their opponents pay dearly as Fu and Zhang claimed gold, 16-21 21-11 23-21, in 67 minutes. It meant Fu defended the crown which he won in London 2012 with his former partner, Cai Yun, while Zhang collected his second medal of these Summer Games, having won bronze in Mixed Doubles.
“We got lucky because Malaysia had their chances to win and didn’t. We got lucky with Korea and now again in the final and I am very happy, especially as things did not go well in Mixed Doubles,” said Zhang.
Fu Haifeng, a veteran of many big finals, was also relieved to scrape through another tension-filled thriller. It was particularly important, he noted, because of China’s failure to reach the top of the badminton podium at Rio 2016 so far.
“We had some pressure because China lost in Mixed Doubles, Women’s Doubles and Women’s Singles but I didn’t think too much about losing because I didn’t want to consider that possibility,” he explained.
“I just carried on and fought my way through, just like I did when we played the Koreans (in the quarter-finals).”
The Malaysians did their best to put on a brave face as reality sank in and, once again, their country was denied its first-ever Olympic gold medal.
“We rushed to get the (match) point. We wanted to win it. We made a mistake,” said Tan, admitting they were a little nervous.
“We are quite disappointed. We ended up with silver.”
Goh acknowledged he made “many easy mistakes in the last few points” which proved decisive.
“I really tried my best but we were so unlucky.”
Having already copped silver in Mixed Doubles, Malaysia’s hopes were raised when the fleet-footed Goh and Tan took the lead, winning the opening game. China responded well and captured the second game in short order, Fu launching ferocious smashes from the deep. The tussle for gold went to the wire with the Malaysians able to claw ahead to their first match point.
What ensued thereafter will be remembered for years, gleefully by the winners and regretfully by the pair they beat for gold.