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China sweeps board in Olympic badminton

By Bai Xu and Ji Ye (Xinhua)

09:52, August 06, 2012

LONDON, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- Chinese shuttlers, spearheaded by Lin Dan, won two more Olympic events on Sunday afternoon, completing a clean sweep of five gold medals.

In a match that attracted most attention started between Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei from Malaysia, in which "Super Dan" beat his arch-rival 2-1 to win the men's singles final in the Wembley Arena, becoming the first shuttler to have defended the Olympic title in the event.

The word "heart-stirring" was not enough to describe how fierce the competition was, as they were both best shuttlers in an era, topping the world rankings alternatively.

Lin didn't seem to be in form in the first game, lashing the shuttlecock out of the court for at least nine times and delivering at least five returns into the net.

Lee, the No. 1 seed, changed his direction abruptly, posing threats to the Beijing Olympic champion with diagonal smashes. With a lapse of Lin, the set concluded 15-21.

The beginning of the second game saw the duo locked in a tug of war, before Lin began pulling ahead after a long exchange and finished the set quickly with a drop shot 21-10.

Atmosphere became strained in the decider, when shots from both players became faster and the pair tumbled sometimes for a retrieval. Even the umpire began making mistakes and corrected after being challenged by Lin.

Their scores tied from 1-1 to 19-19. Crowd cheered and waved national flags. But while they were playing, everyone was holding breath, with only sound of the shuttlecock hitting the racket. At this time each tiny lapse could be fatal.

Lee broke the ice first by making a mistake to send the bird into the net, and then struck the last shot out of the court. 21-19. The audience seethed with excitement.

The overjoyed Lin rushed around the arena for celebration and threw his vest to the audience, while his rival sat on the court sobbing. Then the gold medalist returned to hug Lee. The song, We Are the Champions, resonated in the arena.

"I think this medal is a recognition of my efforts in the past four years," Lin said. "After the Beijing Olympics, I had to work harder to defend my title, as more people wanted to beat me."

Commenting on the match just now, the 29-year-old player said that in the first game he was playing before the wind and wasn't as active as Lee. When he was in the more favorable position against the wind, he seized the chances.

When they were tied 19-19 before the ending, "I wasn't thinking too much," he said. "I pinned my hope on my rival's lapse."

The disappointed Lee Chong Wei said after the match, "he made less mistakes than me."

With an ankle injury, he was so eager to win the gold medal, which would have been the first gold for Malaysia. "But I lost. It was very hard to beat Lin," he said. "There is just one Lin Dan in the world and he is great."

China's badminton head coach Li Yongbo felt sorry for Lee Chong Wei. "To be frank, it was not easy for him, and the loss was such a pity," he said. "He was born in a wrong time. Without Lin Dan, he has been the champion already. They are equally outstanding."

Earlier on Sunday, Chinese shuttler Chen Long outplayed Lee Hyun Il 2-1 in a hard battle, snatching the bronze medal of men's singles.

In the second match on Sunday afternoon, Chinese Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng beat their rivals to win the first Olympic gold medal in men's doubles.

Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen from Denmark got the silver, while the bronze fell into pockets of Jung Jae Sung and Lee Yong Dae from South Korea.

Cai and Fu geared up quickly in the first game to rule the court, where the Danish only started to become aggressive after being outscored 1-4. They impressed the audience by catching up the Chinese pair, who enjoyed 11-6 advantage before the interval, and levelling the scores 12-12. But some mistakes from Boe and Mogensen sent their rivals to a 21-16 victory.

In the second game the Danish made desperate attempts. Li Yongbo, China's badminton head coach, shouted from the stand every now and then to remind Cai and Fu to "run quickly". With Cai Yun's last shot missed by the rivals, China won, 21-15.

Cai Yun rushed out of the court for celebration, while his partner Fu shed tears in excitement.

"This is the exact result we aimed for," said Cai, 32. "We have been playing together for over 10 years, and have entered the Olympics three times. Last time in Beijing we only won silver, and we were regretful since."

The combination of Fu Haifeng's power with his regular partner Cai Yun's speed enabled the pair to become world's leading men's doubles team since 2004. After the Beijing Olympics, however, they seemed to be in a downturn.

"After failure, we were more mature," said Cai. "For match we were not afraid of failure, we tried to enjoy it. We were not scared at all, not nervous. Part of the reason we won was we were full of confidence."

Fu, 28, said the title was like "a dream come true". "This will probably be the greatest recognition of our badminton career," he said. "Next time, our performance might be even better because we don't have any pressure now since we have achieved this goal. Next time we will play in a different state of mind."

Li Yongbo was delighted because their victory not only signalled a clean sweep of badminton golds at the London Olympics, but also suggested a breakthrough in the men's doubles, as the gold of men's doubles seemed always elusive in the past.

"I hope that these medals could change people's perception on the event," he said. "Many people considered the men's doubles the Achilles' heel for China's national badminton team. In fact, Cai and Fu have harvested 14 world titles. This victory is a new starting point for us."

Sunday saw the end of all badminton events, from which China became the biggest winner with five gold medals, two silver and one bronze.

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