Badminton in Nanjing: China dominate in singles, while Sri Lanka make history
China took the gold medals in both the men’s and women’s singles at Nanjing 2014, while Sri Lanka secured its first ever Olympic medal outside of athletics with a bronze in the mixed doubles.
All 32 men and 32 women taking part in the badminton tournament played in both the singles and mixed doubles competitions, ensuring six days of frenetic action on the three courts at the Nanjing Sport Institute gymnasium.
Players were separated into eight groups of four players/pairs in all three tournaments, with the eight group winners advancing to the knockout stages.
He Bingjiao causes an upset
In a thrilling women’s singles final, He Bingjiao caused a major upset by defeating junior world number one Akane Yamaguchi (JPN). After saving a match point in the second game, the Chinese youngster went on to win 22-24, 23-21, 21-17 and avenged her defeat to the same opponent in the World Junior Championships in April 2014.
“I can’t even describe how I’m feeling,” said an emotional Bingjiao. “I want to laugh and cry at the same time. I thought I was going to be overcome with joy at the end of the match but I was actually close to tears!”
For her part, a disappointed Yamaguchi was generous in defeat: “This time, He Bingjiao got the better of me,” she reflected. “She put me under a lot of pressure.”
Shi Yuqi makes it a Chinese double
Just like four years earlier at the inaugural YOG in Singapore, the men’s singles was an all-Chinese affair, after Shi Yuqi and Lin Guipu overcame India’s Aditya Johsi (2-0) and Indonesia’s Anthony Sinisuka Ginting (2-1) in their respective semi-finals.
Shi then powered past his countryman by a scoreline of 21-15, 21-19 to win the gold.
Following his victory, he had plenty of praise for his opponent. “Lin has beaten me a few times recently,” he said. “I’ve lost against him plenty of times, but winning the first game gave me confidence.”
“It’s a fitting reward for the training I’ve put in as I’ve been working hard on my willpower and my stamina.”
Lin, meanwhile, remained philosophical: “We’re either team-mates or rivals.. Clearly tonight was about rivalry as it’s a big competition. In the end, it’s all about the gold medal as there’s only one winner,” he reflected.
“I played well throughout the tournament though and this loss doesn’t undo that good work.”
In the third-place match, Sinisuka Ginting beat Johsi to win the bronze.
Mixed doubles produces landmark for Sri Lanka
In the mixed doubles - which paired players of different nationalities - the ability to communicate in a shared language proved vital as Cheam June Wei (MAS) and Ng Tsz Yau (HKG) took gold, as they defeated Lee Chia-Hsin (CHN) and Kanta Tsumeyama (JPN).
“The mixed doubles is good fun,” enthused Cheam. “I’m taking home loads of great memories.”
Lee Chia-Hsin admitted that defeat was tough to take. “Before the competition I didn’t think we stood a chance,” she said. “As we progressed to the final, however, we started to believe that we could do it. We just didn’t expect them to play as well as that.”
One of the biggest moments of the competition came in the bronze medal match as Sachin Premashan Dias Angoda Vidanalage claimed Sri Lanka’s first ever Olympic medal outside of athletics having been paired with women’s singles winner He Bingjiao.
The Sri Lankan was visibly delighted to have got the better of players from two of badminton’s traditional powerhouses in Mek Narongrit (THA) and Qin Jinjing (CHN): “They’re really, really good opponents,” he remarked. “I mean, it’s Thailand and China!”