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Yearender: Chinese badminton's glory overshadowed by match-fixing scandal


09:05, December 20, 2012

BEIJING, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

In the year of 2012, the Chinese badminton team won both Thomas & Uber Cups and made a clean sweep of Olympic gold medals for the first time, while their victory seemed to be overshadowed by a match-fixing scandal that rocked the nation.

Chinese head coach Li Yongbo said 2012 was a fruitful year for his team.

"We have better result than before, and we promote the sport worldwide through our efforts, but we also suffered some setbacks," he said.

The badminton powerhouse stamped their authority at the London Olympics, winning all the five gold medals for the first time since the sport was first introduced to the Olympics in 1992.

Lin Dan has done what no other men's singles players have, winning back-to-back Olympic gold medals by taking an ecstatic triumph over Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei in the repeat of Beijing final four years ago.

Lin decided to skip all international events on the rest of 2012 calendar for a half-year rest, and he also held a romantic wedding ceremony with former world top women's player Xie Xingfang in September.

However Lin, dubbed "Super Dan", has denied any plans to retire next year and said he would consider going for a third Olympic title in 2016. Meanwhile, his Malaysian arch rival Lee also doesn't mention any thoughts about hanging up the racket, meaning the duo's rivalry will probably remain the focal point of the sport.

Just like Lin, Chinese veteran partners Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng, silver medalists four years ago, also filled the gap for Chinese badminton as the pair won China the first men's doubles Olympic gold medal.

After 10 years together, they finally captured the Olympic gold medal they had been fighting for for so long.

Women's singles gold medal went to the bright new talent Li Xuerui. The dark horse made her name known after winning the prestigious All England Open this March, and had been on a four-tournament winning streak before coming to London.

The Olympic champion continued her momentum and captured an astonishing eighth title in 2012 after winning the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Superseries Finals. Li recorded 56 wins in 61 matches this year.

Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei won in women's doubles and Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei claimed the mixed doubles.

However China's London sweep was rocked by the biggest scandal to hit the sport in its 20-year Olympic history.

In women's doubles, eight female players, including China's former world No.1 Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli, were disqualified by the BWF for trying to lose deliberately in the final round of group stage in a bid to secure favorable draw in the knock-out stage.

The defending champion Yu even announced her retirement directly after the scandal, which triggered a heated debate about whether the group play format used in London encouraged game-throwing.

"It was the most unforgettable experience in our life. Such a big setback has made us more mature," said Yu, who resumed playing in October.

Despite their three-month absence from competitive badminton, the world champions have shown great resilience, winning three consecutive tournaments since their comeback.

Four months after the scandal, the BWF decided to improve the Olympic competition format to ensure the match-throwing scandal in the London Olympics will never be repeated.

China's dominance was just as complete in the Thomas & Uber Cups. In May, they got a sweet revenge for their loss two years ago by beating South Korea 3-0.

And they did it again in the Thomas Cup final by cruising past South Korea 3-0 to claim their fifth consecutive Thomas Cup title, a record only Indonesia achieved from 1994 to 2002 in the history of these men's team championships.

Coach Li believed his team could even do better. Heading for the Rio 2016, Li said the Chinese team will not only focus on winning matches, but also take on the responsibility to promote the sport and attract more people to play badminton.

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