OLYMPICS SF – Victorious Malaysians prevent all-Chinese final

The Olympic men’s doubles badminton semi-finals opened with Goh V.  Shem / Tan Wee Kiong from Malaysia upsetting world #5 Chai Biao / Hong Wei from China in three gritting […]

The Olympic men’s doubles badminton semi-finals opened with Goh V.  Shem / Tan Wee Kiong from Malaysia upsetting world #5 Chai Biao / Hong Wei from China in three gritting games to book a spot in what otherwise might have been an all-Chinese final.

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

Goh V. Shem and Tan Wee Kiong (pictured) have had a stellar run in Rio, not dropping a single match since the start of the tournament, which began with three round robin contests.  The fired-up Malaysians stunned Fu Haifeng / Zhang Nan in the group stage and world #1 and strong favourites Lee Yong Dae / Yoo Yeon Seong in the quarterfinals.

On Tuesday morning, Rio time, they did it again, this time against another higher ranked pair Chai Biao / Hong Wei (pictured below), after 64 minutes and impressive score line 21-18, 12-21, 21-17.

Goh/Tan had their way in the opening game, although the Chinese were always trailing dangerously close behind.  In the second game, the tables were turned and a series of unforced errors by the Malaysian duo gave Chai/Hong a comfortable lead throughout.

A change in tactic in the deciding game proved effective for Goh/Tan.  The Malaysians quickened their pace and tested the Chinese defence with their relentless attacks.  Chai/Hong were lagging by a margin, and it took all they could to answer Tan’s impressive net play and narrow the gap.

A bad line judgement from Chai Biao at a crucial point 17-19 gave the Malaysians their match point – and it was the only one they needed.  Tan’s trick shot stunned the Chinese duo, who simply let the shuttle fall to the floor and along with it, their hopes for a gold medal in Rio.

Goh/Tan became the second ever Malaysian men’s doubles pair to have entered the final.  Their predecessors were Cheah Soon Kit / Yap Kim Hock, who had to eventually settle for silver in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Fu and Zhang both eyeing second gold

Both Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan (pictured) are in the run for their second Olympic gold medal.  They have bagged one gold each in London four years ago, although they did so with different partners.  Fu became the men’s doubles champion with his previous partner Cai Yun, who has now retired, while Zhang’s was in mixed doubles with his current partner Zhao Yunlei.

The spot in the final has not come easy for them.  Fu/Zhang barely survived their quarter-final match against Koreans Kim Gi Jung / Kim Sa Rang.  In the semi-final, they were challenged by underdogs Marcus Ellis / Chris Langridge (pictured below), whose grit and fighting spirit kept the Chinese duo on their toes until the last moment of the match.

Ellis/Langridge, who have both voiced their surprise at having come this far in the tournament, were somewhat outclassed in the opening game as Fu’s powerful smashes broke the British defence all too easily.  They lost the game 21-14.

In the second game, however, Ellis and Langridge were determined to make the Chinese work hard for every point.  What they might have lacked in power, they made up with their energy and a great dose of fighting spirit.  They flew across the court, even tangled up with each other at one point, to return the shots and managed to keep Fu/Zhang’s lead in check.

They also fought to contain the battle at the front court, to stop Fu from launching his powerful smashes.  The British duo saw a glimmer of hope when they managed to overtake the Chinese briefly at 16-15, but a slip by Langridge during the very next rally gave Fu/Zhang an opportunity to draw level again.  This was enough to fire up the Chinese duo who then finished the game 21-18.

Fu Haifeng / Zhang Nan will face Goh/Tan in the finals.  The two pairs have met in the group stage of the tournament, and the Malaysians won the match then.

Click here for complete Tuesday results


About Serla Rusli