OLYMPICS Day 5 – Malaysian mixed boleh!

Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying made history by securing the first ever Malysian mixed medal in Olympic history with a brilliant win over London silver medallists Xu/Ma. By […]

Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying made history by securing the first ever Malysian mixed medal in Olympic history with a brilliant win over London silver medallists Xu/Ma.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live)

Just when it looked as if China might be on track for another sweep of the gold, with their domination of the men’s doubles, two of badminton’s oldest powers stepped in to deny both pairs from the all-Chinese London mixed final.

In their semi-final, Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying (pictured top) faced Xu Chen and Ma Jin, one of the three pairs that contributed to the Malaysians’ ignominious winless performance in London.  Before the quarter-finals, they might have been expecting to meet Korea’s Ko/Kim, against whom they had a very even record, but the Chinese advanced with their excellent recent form.

The Malaysians were dominant in the first game, taking it by a convincing 21-12 scoreline.  The had an early lead in the second as well, but the London silver medallists kept things close and moved into the lead late in the game.

Goh and Chan were doing a good job of trapping Ma at the back but each time, the effort was quickly negated by the Chinese pair’s blink-of-an-eye rotation and toward the end of the second game, Xu was revelling in the opportunities to land some punishing smashes.

The Malaysians remained patient and calm, however.  They played some excellent defense and while Goh controlled things at the front, Chan did some incredible leaping at the back to keep the attack just when Xu and Ma though they had won it back.  On their second match point opportunity, they converted and made the Rio their fourth final of the year.

Boleh or bisa?

It had been over two years since Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad had beaten the defending Olympic champions.  In fact, shortly after Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei (pictured below) took the gold in London, the Indonesians began a run of luck against the mighty Chinese pair but beginning with the Asian Games in 2014 and continuing through the World Championships on the Indonesians’ home court last year, Zhang and Zhao had an 8-match winning streak over their opponents by the time they both took to the courts in Rio.

After taking the first game, the Indonesians were riding high but the second game stayed close until after the interval.  Seeing the end in sight, Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad (pictured above) just totally took control, looking very solid in defense and seemingly moving Zhang Nan around the backcourt at will.

When the dust cleared, Natsir had booked a ticket to her second Olympic final and the mixed doubles gold will finally have a new home after being won by Korean and Chinese pairs only since the event debuted in Atlanta 20 years ago.

Tai and Thai falter

Two of the top contenders for the women’s singles gold fell at the quarter-final hurdle on Monday evening.  Tai Tzu Ying and Ratchanok Intanon, who were the two youngest competitors in London four years ago, were both in great form coming to Rio but they were beaten by two other rookies this time around.

Akane Yamaguchi, the youngest shuttler at the Rio Games, showed she was not impressed with Intanon’s run of three straight Superseries titles earlier this year, the last of which involved a semi-final defeat of the Japanese teen.  She took care of the fourth-seeded Thai in straight games.

Tai Tzu Ying, winner of the Indonesia Open in June, fell to India’s Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (pictured).  Sindhu won in straight games to keep Indian hopes alive after the shock exit by her world #5 compatriot Saina Nehwal, who lost in the preliminary round.

Europe’s upset queens taken

Sindhu was not the only one who had the shadow of a more illustrious team-mate to move out of.  Shortly after Ratchanok Intanon was beaten, her compatriot Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (pictured below) saw off Marija Ulitina to become the last Thai standing in Rio.

Porntip, of course, was the losing finalist when Ratchanok began making headlines by winning the World Junior title back in 2009.  Her quarter-final opponent was the Ukrainian who had upset Saina Nehwal and now the Thai must face defending Olympic champion Li Xuerui for the fifth time this year.

Linda Zetchiri of Bulgaria was also unable to pull off a second consecutive upset.  After eliminating Kirsty Gilmour from group play, she went down tamely to Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun.  Sung, too, is the last one competing from her team in women’s singles.  Bae Yeon Ju was no match for Nozomi Okuhara and Japan thus ends up as the only country with two round of 16 singles winners.  China has two quarter-finalists in both singles events but all four had byes through the first stage of the knockout rounds.

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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