OLYMPICS MD Final – Double gold strikes for Fu and Zhang

Fu Haifeng / Zhang Nan delivered a spectacular performance in the badminton men’s doubles final and were crowned Olympic champions after a nerve-wracking match against Goh V Shem / Tan […]

Fu Haifeng / Zhang Nan delivered a spectacular performance in the badminton men’s doubles final and were crowned Olympic champions after a nerve-wracking match against Goh V Shem / Tan Wee Kiong.

By Serla Rusli.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live).

Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan (pictured) have become the comeback kings in these Olympic Games.

The Chinese duo pulled a miracle in their quarter-final match against Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang.  They were trailing 2-10 in the third game but slowly clawed back to draw level with the Koreans.  Kim/Kim were so close to winning, but Fu/Zhang showed impressive psychological strength and saved three match points.  They eventually won the match 24-22 and booked their slot in the semi-final.

This time, they did it again, saving two gold medal points from the Malaysians.

After a close first game where Goh V Shem / Tan Wee Kiong (pictured) won 21-16, Fu/Zhang came back stronger and dominated the second game.  They earned their equaliser point in a somewhat one-sided game which ended 21-11.

The deciding game was full of high-speed rallies – both sides unleashed their best attacks and answered with solid defence.  China started off leading the game, but after Goh/Tan drew level at 12-12, the two teams took turn to lead the game.

As the points built up, so did the pressure.  It was Malaysia who first reached the gold medal point at 20-19.  But a service that went short cost them the precious point and pushed the game to deuce.  China made a mistake in the next rally, and Goh/Tan were back at an advantage 21-20.  Then came another short serve and once again the Malaysians lost what would be their last gold medal point.  This was enough for Fu/Zhang to barge ahead and snatch the title that they had been fighting so hard for.

Fu/Zhang’s victory ended a gold draught that had plagued the Chinese badminton team.  China had failed to send any finalists in the women’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles departments, a stark downgrade from their clean sweep of titles in the London .

For both Fu and Zhang, the gold in Rio was a remarkable personal achievement.

Fu Haifeng has become the only player in the history of men’s doubles to have won a second Olympic gold medal.  This was his fourth, and most probably last, Olympic Games.  His first was in Athens in 2004, when he and his previous partner Cai Yun lost in the quarter finals.  They then became the runners-up in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, before finally winning the title four years ago in London.

Zhang Nan is also now a two-time Olympic gold medallist.  His other medal was from four years ago, when he won the mixed doubles title with his partner Zhao Yunlei.  Zhang/Zhao had to settle for a bronze medal this time in Rio.

Goh/Tan’s defeat was but a slight dip in the mood for Malaysia.  The country was rejoicing in celebration earlier in the day as Lee Chong Wei beat Lin Dan to enter the men’s singles final.

Still, the silver medal from the twenty-seven-year-old duo was no minor contribution to Malaysian badminton.  After all, this was Malaysia’s first medal in men’s doubles since the silver won by Cheah Soon Kit / Yap Kim Hock twenty years ago in Atlanta.

Not to mention the impressive run they had in Rio.  They came in to the tournament unseeded and upset many of the favourites.  First they beat Fu/Zhang in the group stage.  Then they stunned world #1 Lee Yong Dae / Yoo Yeon Song in the quarter-final and beat higher-ranked Chinese duo Chai Biao / Hong Wei in the semi-final.  They did come very close to winning an Olympic title, but they literally just came a little short at the very last moment – two points short to be exact.

All things considered, the silver medal would perhaps still be a cause for celebration for Malaysia after all.

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About Serla Rusli