Canada, and Michelle Li (pictured), in particular, were the big winners at the Pan Am Games this week in Guadalajara, Mexico. Canada took 3 golds, two of them from the eager hands of the U.S.A., which had to settle for one.
By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent. Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)
Michelle Li’s biggest victory for Canada actually came in the first day of gold medal contests, on Wednesday, when she and Alex Bruce overcame the top-seeded Wang sisters to win the women’s doubles gold with a pair of 21-15 games. It was the first of two Canada-U.SA. gold medal showdown.
Her second came when she beat compatriot Joycelyn Ko in the women’s singles final. Li had finished last year’s Pan Am Championships with two runner-up placings so her two Guadalajara golds will further bolster her Olympic hopes. She has just peaked her head into the world’s top 30 in singles for the first time in her career and by next week she will be looking even stronger to take the continental spot for London 2012. The women’s doubles is a dead heat for the Pan Am slot, however, and Bruce/Li and the Wang sisters will both inch up, having improved on last year’s performance.
The men’s doubles gold was guaranteed to head back to the U.S.A. as Howard Bach / Tony Gunawan were up against Halim Haryanto Ho / Sattawat Pongnairat. As expected, the 2005 World Champions marched to victory and they are the gold medallists most likely to qualify for London without reliance on the continental qualification. For Tony and Halim, it was their first medals as U.S. citizens at a major sporting event.
Halim wasn’t finished however, and assured of at least silver in the mixed doubles, he and partner Eva Lee stood a very good chance of upsetting defending Pan Am Champions Toby Ng and Grace Gao, as they had recently in Brazil. In the end, though they screamed to a second-game victory, it was the Canadians who pulled off the 21-13, 9-21, 21-17 win, denying Eva Lee even one of the three golds she had earned at the 2007 Games.
“We did it. We came through,” posted Toby Ng to his Facebook page. “Always a close game with Halim/Eva and very huge respect to them as they are a formidable team.
“Thank you VERY much to all the Canadians who came out to cheer for us and a special thank you to the Mexican crowd! Thank you to our coaches Jeff White and Ram Nayyar, and a very special thank you to Kim Dong Moon, because without him, we probably wouldn’t be where we are.”
The only gold to head south was won by Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon (pictured right). The men’s singles top seed was put to the test by Cuba’s Osleni Guerrero, before emerging the 23-21, 21-19 victor.
While most of the field will be taking a short break, Li, Bruce, and Iris and Rena Wang are slated to get right back into the mix with the best of Europe and Asia at next week’s French Open.