Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong’s bid for the last remaining major title to their collection came unstuck at the hands of their compatriots Wang Yi Lyu and Huang Dong Ping.
The overwhelming 13-2 record in favour of the world champions counted for little as Wang and Huang matched the favourites shot for shot and kept their nerve during a tense ending to claim the gold, 21-17 17-21 21-19. After finishing runners-up to their compatriots in 10 of 12 finals, it was finally the day when Wang and Huang emerged out of the shadows of their illustrious teammates.
There was little difference between the two pairs, and it would all come down to a couple of points at the end – a Huang Ya Qiong service fault; a Zheng Si Wei drive wide of the sideline. The final had, all through its 69-minute duration, featured monstrous smashes from Zheng and Wang, and a hustle for openings at the net by the two Huangs. Late in the third, it was Huang Dong Ping who stepped up a notch, earning a couple of kills at the net, and driving the momentum decisively in their favour. The challengers were denied two match points but converted the third, and deliriously fell to the floor in celebration.
“My mind went blank,” said Wang Yi Lyu, reflecting on the enormity of the achievement. “It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
How did they overturn their negative record against their compatriots?
“You have to have strong conviction. If you want to win the gold, first you have to win over yourself.”
Watanabe/Higashino Win Bronze
Earlier, Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino outplayed Hong Kong China’s Tang Chun Man/Tse Ying Suet 21-17 23-21 to win the bronze medal playoff, thereby becoming the first Japanese medallists in mixed doubles at the Olympics.
“It was very tough. I felt really pressured, with many expectations on us. I tried to enjoy it but there was so much pressure that I wanted to go away. But I never gave up,” said Watanabe.
“It’s the first time Japan has won a bronze medal in mixed doubles so this is a big medal for us. We also want to go further, so please shout for us. Getting a bronze medal for Japan is very meaningful. I wanted to receive a better colour but it’s enough.
“It’s been 10 years since we (Higashino) paired up. There have been tough times but she helped me a lot and I am very glad that we came this far and I’m really grateful.”