Players, coaches and fans of China's badminton team expected the Olympics to be tough. They have not been disappointed.
Defending champions and medal hopefuls alike came to grief in the early stages of the competition at the Beijing University of Technology Gymnasium.
Reigning women's doubles champions Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen of China were eliminated in the early going. Defending men's singles champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia and women's singles favorite Tine Rasmussen of Denmark were also knocked out.
Chinese mixed doubles hope Gao Ling and Zheng Bo were eliminated in the first round going down to Gail Emms and Nathan Robertson from Britain.
"The Olympics is a very different reality," said China's head coach Li Yongbo.
"Because the Olympics are so special, anything can happen, things that won't happen in the World Championships or other competitions," he said.
Li has been this way before. His 2004 Olympic lineup almost collapsed in Athens, with top-ranked men's single player Lin Dan eliminated in his first match.
Still, the 2008 Olympic badminton tournament has a long way to go.
"With the start of the mixed doubles and the men's doubles, we are prepared for some tough matches," Li told reporters. "We plan for the worst, but play with confidence."
His players concurred.
"Anything can happen at the Olympics. We will play each match as if it were the final," said 25-year-old Fu Haifeng.
Fu and Cai Yun, ranked second in the world, defeated Jens Eriksen and Martin Lundgaard Hansen of Denmark in straight games to advance to the quarterfinals. The Danish pair had defeated Fu and Cai in the quarterfinals in Athens.
After the game, Fu and Cai celebrated as if they had won a final.
Several other Chinese players also advanced yesterday. Fourth-seeded He Hanbin and Yu Yang defeated Anthony Clark and Donna Kellogg of Britain in straight games in the mixed doubles round of 16. China's Bao Chunlai also went past Przemyslaw Wacha of Poland in three games to advance to the quarterfinals in the men's singles.
Source: China Daily