OLYMPICS Day 5 – No morning calm for Korean nerves

3 matches to win before a gold medal, 3 courts, 3 games for the opening 3 matches, and 3 disappointing losses for fancied Korean pairs. By Kira Rin.  Photos: Yves […]

3 matches to win before a gold medal, 3 courts, 3 games for the opening 3 matches, and 3 disappointing losses for fancied Korean pairs.

By Kira Rin.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live)

Each of the opening matches on Monday at the Rio opened with 3 games each, pushing each and every one of the players involved to their utmost limits.  Even so, many more had to transcend such limits in order to push past mighty players.

Golden Kims vs.  golden pair

Korea’s two Kims literally have gold in their family names, but they faced a mountain in the form of China’ golden pair, Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan (pictured), both of whom were 2012 gold medallists, in men’s and mixed doubles respectively.  The Kims took the Chinese pair by surprise with their quick pace off the bat, and soon started off with the 1st game, ceding only 11 points.

For a moment, the Koreans look poised to wrap up the match, staying consistently ahead of the Chinese pair.  Zhang and Fu were never far behind, and seemed to be waiting patiently for a chance to pounce.  That opportunity presented itself, when a bad miss from the Kims saw the second game score equalized at 18-all.  With the Chinese consistently returning the shuttle back saw the Kims under pressure to end the rallies quickly but a couple of mistakes saw final game in the making.

In the final game, Kim Ki Jung and Kim Sa Rang (pictured) once again redoubled their offensive.  Seeing the Korean pair ahead by 8 points, the Chinese pair called upon their mystic powers of extraordinary mental resilience and experience to slowly chip away at the gap.  While the Koreans were the first to hold match point, the Chinese slowly crawled their way back into the match with their consistency.  Under immense pressure, the Koreans cracked and lost their driving consistency, with yet another bad drive pushing the Chinese that one step closer to the final.

Underdogs not fooled by old tricks

Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong were Korea’s only hope at a men’s doubles medal after the loss of the double Kims.  They faced the Malaysian pair of Goh V. Shem and Tan Wee Kiong (pictured top).  Eager for a chance to progress, the Koreans drove to a one-game lead, but the Malaysians were never far behind, always keeping tabs with Tan cleaning up stray shots from Goh’s smashes.

In the second game, it was the Malaysians’ turn to keep the lead, with the Koreans chasing from behind.  Clearly under pressure to win, the Koreans let out some high and loose net shots which were punished swiftly by Tan’s net kills.  There was a small moment of brilliance as Lee Yong Dae almost singlehandedly erased a 5 point deficit with his excellent choice of shots and net coverage, but it wasn’t enough to faze the Malaysians, who kept their attacks flying through the fastest lines.

Turning up the mental pressure, the Koreans were pressured into high lifts which were pounded down by Goh’s acrobatic high jump smashes.  Combined with Tan’s clever net play, the Koreans were always stuck on the defensive, left with no way to set up their own attacking play.  Once again, the Koreans were able to exhibit some brilliant plays to gain the offensive, but it was too late as the Malaysians seized the victory at their 3rd chance.

The Hawkeye system may be in need of revision, as it glitched a few times during player challenges.  One notable incident happened during the men’s doubles match, where the Malaysian pair challenged a shot that was called out.  Running the Hawkeye simulation, the shuttle was shown to be in, but the program declared the shuttle to be out, prompting loud vocal protests from the Malaysian side.  Only when the simulation was rerun was the correct call of “in” announced.

England’s Marcus Ellis / Chris Langridge (pictured) continued their fairytale run with a win over Japan’s Endo/Hayakawa.  They play Fu/Zhang next, while Goh/Tan take on Chai Baio / Hong Wei, who saw off All England champions Ivanov/Sozonov.

One last hope for Korean doubles

Women’s doubles went almost according to ranking, although world #1 Matsutomo/Takahashi had to fight harder than expected to shut down Malaysia’s Hoo/Woon.  Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan (pictured) became the only Korean pair to advance to the semi-finals when they won in three games against Piek/Muskens of the Netherlands.

Jang Ye Na and Lee So Hee lost a nailbiter of a first game to Pedersen/Rytter Juhl 26-28.   They came back to take the second game but were completely at sea in the decider.  The Danes take on Tang Yuanting and Yu Yang for a spot in the final.

Click here for complete Monday results


About Kira Rin