RACE TO RIO – Only champions can change things now

With just two days remaining in the Olympic qualification period, the prospects hang in the balance for just three Rio hopefuls but only champions on two continents can change things […]

With just two days remaining in the Olympic qualification period, the prospects hang in the balance for just three Rio hopefuls but only champions on two continents can change things now.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

Plenty happened this week in the continental championships that had an impact on the list of qualifiers for the Rio .  Among the most recent were in men’s doubles, where Australia’s Chau/Serasinghe moved into the top 50, making them eligible for a continental spot.  Meanwhile, Michael Fuchs and Johannes Schoettler (pictured) reached the quarter-finals and thus inched ahead of Thailand’s Issara/Puangpuapech for the last non-continental spot in that discipline.

and Nanna Vainio leapfrogged their compatriots and others to get into qualifying range.  Higher up on the lists, Natalia Perminova and Ozge Bayrak switched places with their compatriots to possibly become the more likely shuttlers from Russia and Turkey respectively to be selected for Rio.  Over in Asia, the same trade-off happened between the two top women’s doubles pairs from Thailand.

Also in Asia, the last singles addition came from Lee Dong Keun, who benefitted from a rule change that deleted and left the Korean one step closer to the top 16.  Then Lee rose to the occasion and beat Kidambi Srikanth and Hu Yun back-to-back to pass Hu’s compatriot Wei Nan and ensure that China, Denmark, Hong Kong, and Korea would each be able to send two men’s singles shuttlers to the Olympics this summer.

In the women’s singles, a similar final push last week put Porntip Buranaprasertsuk barely into 16th spot, where she is eligible to accompany Ratchanok Intanon to Rio, meaning that China, Korea, Japan, and Korea would all have double singles representation.  However, Porntip’s place was quite precarious.  She watched her compatriot Busanan Ongbamrungphan and Japan’s Yui Hashimoto lose too early to mount threat to Porntip’s position but she has one last vulnerability.

Over in Europe, Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour (pictured top) is still on track to meet World Champion Carolina Marin in the final of the European Championships in La Roche sur Yon.  If she manages to beat the Spaniard, it will be game over for Porntip and her spot will be delivered further down the list to the eager hands of Estonia’s Kati Tolmoff, who herself achieved two upsets earlier in the week.

Even if Gilmour does not top the podium in France, she’ll still have her ticket to Rio and can challenge the world’s best this summer. For two other shuttlers, meanwhile, a championship is the only way for them to book their own ticket to Brazil.

Naoko Fukuman and Kurumi Yonao (pictured) repeated their World Championship success over China’s Luo Ying and Luo Yu yesterday at the Asian Championships.  Unfortunately, the only pair in the women’s doubles top 8 whom they can catch, Korea’s Jang Ye Na and Lee So Hee, achieved an even bigger upset by taking down World and Olympic Champions Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei.

Because of the victory by the Koreans, the Japanese pair are in a must-win situation.  Nothing less than the title in Wuhan can see them take the #8 spot.  Not only that, but they must hope that their compatriots Matsutomo/Takahashi can keep the Koreans from clinching the spot with a semi-final victory today.

All this will play itself out in the next 48 hours but for most of the semi-finalists in France and China, it is now mainly a struggle to prove themselves the best on their respective continents.

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