OLYMPICS DOUBLES – Japan for the win!

World #1 Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi were crowned the new Olympics women’s doubles champion in Rio after beating Danish duo Christina Pedersen / Kamilla Rytter Juhl. By Serla Rusli. […]

World #1 Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi were crowned the new women’s doubles champion in Rio after beating Danish duo Christina Pedersen / Kamilla Rytter Juhl.

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

It was a contest of who wanted it more between the Danes and the Japanese.

From the outset, Pedersen/Juhl showed their aggressive side. The first games saw the Danes edging slightly over the Japanese as they took full advantage of their towering physiques to put pressure on their opponents. Still, the Japanese were no easy feat to beat and the game ended 21-18.  The tables were completely turned in the second game as Matsutomo/Takahashi nabbed their point in the match all too easily with 21-9.

But in the deciding game, the fierce battle continued as both pairs fought to become the first in their country to win the women’s doubles Olympic gold medal. After a series of point-by-point exchanges, it looked like the Danes were set to win the gold medal when they were leading 19-16.

Yet, the wondrous Japanese pulled off a miracle as they made an incredible comeback. With a combination of wit and impenetrable defence, Matsutomo and Takahashi crawled back up one point at a time. The Danes were increasingly under pressure, and the Japanese duo maintained their momentum to gain 5 points in a row to become the eventual champions.

There were tears of joy and celebration as Japan became the third country to ever win the women’s doubles title in the Olympics. This gold medal was also an upgrade from the 2012 London Olympics silver by their compatriots Mizuki Fujii / Reika Kakiiwa.

As for the Danes, disappointed as they were, they have created history in their own right. Pedersen/Juhl have given Denmark its first ever medal in women’s doubles and they were the first Europeans ever to reach an Olympic final in the discipline.

China to go home empty-handed

China’s hope for a women’s doubles medal at the Rio Olympics was dashed when Tang Yuanting / Yu Yang lost with surprising ease to Jung Kyung Eun / Shin Sheung Chan in their bronze medal match. The Koreans emerged victorious, 21-8, 21-17, to claim their third-ranked spot at the podium.

This would be the first time ever that China is not bringing home any medal for this event. Women’s doubles have traditionally been dominated by the Chinese, with them winning 12 gold medals in total, five of them gold.

Tang/Yu’s defeat also started a chain of disappointing streaks for the Chinese badminton team in Rio. Shortly after the match, Li Xuerui lost to Carolina Marin, dashing the country’s hope for a spot in the women’s singles final. Afterwards, world #5 Chinese men’s doubles pair Chai Biao / Hong Wei lost to English pair Marcus Ellis / Chris Langridge.

Historic bronze by British men’s doubles team

Ellis and Langridge carved history in British men’s doubles badminton today in Rio. Ranked 22nd in the world, they entered their first ever Olympic Games not expecting to advance this far in the tournament, let alone winning a medal. But as the match against Chai Biao / Hong Wei testified, their incredible run at the Games had not been out of sheer luck. They deserved their bronze medal.

Ellis/Langridge might have been the underdogs, but right from the opening game, they showed that they would not let this golden – or rather bronze – opportunity pass. The Chinese started off leading but the Brits crept ever closer and eventually took over and snatched the first game 21-18.

The second game was just as tight, but Chai/Hong came out on top with 21-19.

The final game, however, was a completely different story. The British duo was getting increasingly pumped up, a stark contrast from the Chinese who seemed to suddenly lose their game. The Brits stole many points right from the start through aggressive attacks against Chai/Hong. Coupled with their opponents’ unforced errors, Ellis/Langridge maintained a comfortable lead throughout.

The highly-anticipated medal finally lay at the British feet when at 20-10, Langridge successfully challenged a service call to their advantage. And the duo did it once again, ending their Olympic journey on the best possible note.

This was Britain’s third ever medal for badminton in the Olympics. The first two were both in mixed doubles: a bronze in 2000 Sydney Games by Simon Archer / Joanne Goode and a silver in 2004 Athens Games by Gail Emms / Nathan Robertson.

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About Serla Rusli