It must have been one of the sweetest victories ever as veteran partners, Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng, today filled the glaring gap on their badminton CVs.
The reigning Men’s Doubles world champions (featured image) and the Olympic top seeds, finally – after ten years together – captured that elusive Olympic gold medal they have sought for so long. Their 21-16 21-15 triumph over Denmark’s Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen, in the last match of the London 2012 tournament, also sealed a first-ever gold-medal sweep at the Olympics for China, who won every category.
It replicated that country’s spectacular sweep at last year’s World Championships at the same venue – Wembley Arena.
Earlier, Korea’s No. 2 seeds Chung Jae Sung and Lee Yong Dae earned a consolation bronze by beating Malaysia’s Koo Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong in straight games, 23-21 21-10. This was Chung’s last match in international badminton.
Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng are the most accomplished contemporary Men’s Doubles pair, with four World Championships gold medals. The only title missing from their collection was the Olympic gold and – after settling for silver in Beijing – they ensured it would not elude them again.
Fu Haifeng, 28, said they had dreamt of Olympic glory for years.
“Now we’ve become more experienced with several World Championships and Superseries titles, it had become a long-term desire. Today is a dream come true.”
His 32-year-old teammate was just as delighted.
“The last time in Beijing we only achieved the silver medal. It’s ten years I’ve been partnering Fu Haifeng and we finally realised our dream.”
Boe and Mogenesen had upset the top-seeded Koreans in the semi-finals, but Cai and Haifeng did not give them an opportunity to impose their attacking game.
The two Chinese were steady at the net, judicious with their lifts, and served and returned so tightly that they denied the Danes the chance to pressure them. The Chinese cruised ahead steadily, moving confidently to 19-14 when Fu Haifeng smashed down the middle. The game was won soon after.
The Danes attempted a comeback in the second game and, for a while stayed close to their opponents, but the Chinese took the mid-game break 11-9.
Thereafter, Denmark could not get close and were further frustrated by their unforced errors at crucial junctures.
In the bronze play-off, 29-year-old Chung Jae Sung bowed out of international competition with a medal for himself, his partner Lee Yong Dae and his country.
Though they began sluggishly, the Korean pair got into their groove and from there dominated the Malaysians Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong.
Reflecting on his career, an emotional Chung said: “I’ve been with Lee Yong Dae for seven years. This medal has a special meaning for me. I didn’t want to fail twice (after losing the semi-final). I regarded this bronze-medal match as a gold-medal match.”
Lee Yong Dae, 23, expressed his disappointment at missing the gold medal and paid tribute to his senior partner.
“Over the last four years, we have been focusing on the gold medal, but unfortunately we lost in the semi-final. We got the bronze medal as consolation. I’m glad we won bronze. Chung Jae Sung was my best partner. It was my good fortune to be with big brother Jae Sung. I met him when I was in 10th grade when I wasn’t as good as I am now.”