OLYMPICS Day 8 – Zhao’s second is Olympic first

Zhao Yunlei has become the first badminton player ever to win two golds in one Olympics as she and Tian Qing held on to beat Fujii/Kakiiwa of Japan for the […]

Zhao Yunlei has become the first badminton player ever to win two golds in one as she and Tian Qing held on to beat Fujii/Kakiiwa of Japan for the women’s doubles title.

By Michael Burke and Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondents.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

These Olympic Games promised something new from the start but with the developments over the past week, the first three categories’ medal matches featured 17 first-time Olympians and the two veterans played for bronze.

But perhaps the most exciting first came for China’s Zhao Yunlei (pictured left with Tian Qing).  Not only did she become the first player ever to win two golds in a single Olympic Games but she was the first woman ever and the first player since Kim Dong Moon to win in two different categories.

The women’s doubles gold medal match was not the predicted match, the Chinese world #2 pair Zhao Yunlei and Tian Qing taking on #4 Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa (pictured right), the unexpected opponents after the controversies of Tuesday night.  But then the Olympics rarely do go as expected.

The match in the end took the predictable conclusion, although not before an entertaining second game ended well into extra points, Zhao and Tian simply too good, taking the match 21-10, 25-23.

Earlier, the last match of the morning session saw the Russians Sorokina and Vislova repeat their group stage domination of the Canadian pair Bruce and Li, trouncing them 21-9, 21-10 to take the bronze medal.

Although this was a first ever badminton medal for Russia, it still meant we will have to wait at least another four years for a badminton medal to go – or in the case of Rio possibly, stay – outside of Europe or Asia.

Rushed gold for Li

At this time last year, Li Xuerui (pictured) was not even in the world’s top 10 and had never been higher than #9.  Since then, though, she has been a juggernaut, winning the All England, the Asian Championships and winning two of three other finals of major tournaments before arriving at these Olympics.

She has obviously been in a hurry to make her mark on world badminton and now she’s done it, becoming the first player ever to win gold before making it to world #1.

In the gold medal match, Li once again had to face off against World Champion Wang Yihan (pictured below) for the fourth time since last fall.  It looked like the test would be for Wang, as her 22-year-old opponent had won all three of those previous most recent encounters and had not dropped a game so far this tournament.

It was a close-fought match as Li continued her recent form, despite not being able to close it out in the second game.  The upstart responded well in the third, though, to win 21-15, 21-23, 21-17.

The afternoon session had begun with the bronze medal match, where India’s Saina Nehwal took bronze in unfortunate circumstances against Wang Xin of China in the first match on court.  Nehwal had a promising start, but Wang had the better of the exchanges.  With the score 20-18 to Wang, the Chinese veteran went down with a knee injury.  After a break for strapping, she managed to take the first game at the next opportunity, but only lasted one further point in the next game before retiring.

With China holding three golds in hand at these Olympic Games, they are now going for the sweep and their last two chances are indeed good ones, with Lin Dan in the singles and Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng in the doubles in Sunday.

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Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net