Saturday, August 16, 2008
TEXT BY RAPHAEL SACHETAT / BADMINTONPHOTO
China, already assured of a gold medal in Women’s Singles, bagged the first gold medal in badminton when Du Jing-Yu Yang beat Korea’s Lee Hyo Jung-Lee Kyung Won 21-15 21-13.
But before that, in the bronze medal play-off, Zhang Yawen-Wei Yili took the bronze with a hard fought match against Japan’s Satoko Suetsuna-Miyuki Maeda. The Chinese won 21-17, 21-10.
In the final, Lee Kyung Won and Lee Hyo Jung had a good start in the game, but soon, Lee Kyung Won twisted her ankle and got a first wrap done on site. She was still able to play but obviously lacking stability to hit the shuttle, which clearly put the Koreans at a disadvantage.
Lee Hyo Jung, on the other hand, seemed distracted and even if she served wonderfully, she was not very confident in her returns and her unforced errors cost them the first game 21/13. The Chinese on the other side were being their usual selves, energetic, jumping all around and very precise in attacks.
The second game started off with few seconds of delay due to Lee Kyong Won having another band aid done on her ankle, and things seemed to go better for the Koreans, who led the first part of the game, until both teams reached 12/12.
After that, the Koreans couldn’t manage to score, even if the points were a done deal. Du and Yu kept alive incredible shuttles and the two Koreans started doubting, finding no solution and committing one mistake after the other. The points then were adding up on the score board on the Chinese side only and the fans could clearly sense that it was over before the end.
Lee Kyung Won praised her opponent’s victory: “They played really fast and well tonight, and I don’t know if it would have changed things if I didn’t get injured. The injury did play a part but they are a very good pair.”
“Overall, I feel some regrets about the results, but I still appreciate my silver medal”.
The winners were all smiles: “When it was announced that Beijing got the 2008 Olympic Games, I dreamt of winning the gold medal. I wanted to hear the Chinese National Anthem and see the Chinese flag during the ceremony. And then, when Yang and Zhang lost to the Japanese pair, I had set my mind to win gold,” said Yu Yang, who is still in competition to win the gold in the mixed doubles.
“We are still a young pair and this gold medal signals a new beginning for us. We know that other nations are improving, but we are also, and I am confident that we can still be the best in the future,” added Du Jing.
Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan will play on Sunday for the men’s singles gold medal but the day belonged to Du Jing and Yu Yang who gave China its first badminton gold medal of the Olympic Games.
For the past few months the whole badminton world has been craving for the ideal men’s singles final for the Olympic Games, Lee Chong Wei against Lin Dan, two players who have dominated the badminton circuit for the past 2 years, even more for Lin Dan.
It was expected to take place at the World Championships in Kuala Lumpur last year, but Chong Wei was shown the exit and Lin Dan went on to win his second consecutive world title.
But it might be another story on Sunday, this time on Lin Dan’s home soil, as Lee Chong Wei is clearly not the same player. He has been preparing for these Olympic Games for a long time, meticulously with his coach Misbun Sidek, and once again it paid off during the semi-final against the in form Lee Hyun Il of Korea.
Oddly enough, on top of the few Malaysians waving their flag high, the fans were cheering for Lee, who is known to be Lin Dan’s main rival for the title. Maybe it has to do with the traditional rivalry in badminton between China or Korea, or even because the Chinese fans – who are very much aware of the world tour – still had in mind the Korean Open final when Lin Dan and Lee Hyun Il fought all the way with the now famous Lin Dan – Li Mao dispute.
The Malaysian got off to a flying start, leaving no time for his opponent to adjust to the conditions, taking the shuttle very early and pushing Lee Hyun Il to his base line before ending the rally with a flurry of smashes. After a 10/5 lead, the Korean however used his legendary defense and cross court attack to come back, but it was too late as it was Chong Wei who got the first game 21/18.
The second game was a different story, with Lee Hyun Il sharper from the very start and eager to fight his way through another mouth watering potential final. The Malaysian then had a clear lack of inspiration which cost him 10 points in a row, with Hyun Il all fired up and leading 16/6 all of a sudden. It was then too late to fight back and the Malaysian wisely let go to focus on the third game, which he was to start in the best matter ever, leading 8/1 in a few minutes.
It was then all about holding his lead through out the end of the match, which he did beautifully, using strength and touch, speed and variation of rhythm. When the shuttle hit the floor for the final point, the young Malaysian slumped to the floor and stayed there a few seconds before jumping into his coach’s arms in celebration.
“I was confident before the match because I had prepared well, but I was a bit surprised by his speed in the second game. So I let go and focused on the third. It’s a great feeling to have won a medal already as my target was to win a medal, but now I will try my very best to strike gold,” said Chong Wei.
“The good thing is that now, having qualified for the final, the pressure is off my shoulders and I will play my best. This match was of course my best ever win as I never entered a final of a major event before. As for tomorrow (Sunday), it will be a 50/50 match even if Lin Dan has the home advantage.”
The Malaysian wasn’t even questioning the fact that Lin would be his opponent, even before the match between Chen Jin and Lin Dan. And as expected, it was the double world champion who came out as a winner of this all Chinese confrontation, in a match which was hardly a classic.