Top 3 Chinese women into Olympic badminton semis
Fri, 03 Aug 2012 6:27a.m.
By Foster Niumata
World champion Wang Yihan led compatriots Wang Xin and Li Xuerui into the Olympic badminton semifinals on Thursday, with only India's Saina Nehwal standing in the way of a Chinese sweep of women's singles.
"I also feel like a Chinese," Nehwal joked. "It's a nice thing to be with them. The Chinese are very strong but I'm not worried about it."
China was already ensured of at least one gold medal when both of its top-seeded pairs reached the mixed doubles final. Top-ranked Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei will face second-ranked Xu Chen and Ma Jin after both teams came back from losing the first game of their semifinals to make Friday's final.
A day after four women's doubles teams were kicked out of the games for trying to deliberately lose group matches to rig the knockout lineup, the IOC urged the Chinese, South Korean and Indonesian teams to investigate the coaches of the eight players.
Secretary general Thomas Lund of the under-fire World Badminton Federation said that was a separate investigation from their probe, and they planned to review the scandal after the Olympics to "make sure this situation won't happen again."
What Thursday's matches lacked in controversy they made up for in excitement at Wembley Arena.
Thai 17-year-old Ratchanok Intanon, the unprecedented winner of the last three junior world titles, threatened to upset the natural order when she was making Wang Xin, the No. 1 as recently as last year, look ordinary.
Ratchanok was three points from victory but couldn't close the deal, then was hampered by a right foot injury halfway through the third game and Wang Xin pounced to win 17-21, 21-18, 21-14.
"I'd expected to get a medal to take back to Thailand and I'm disappointed that I couldn't," Ratchanok said. "It's my own fault."
Wang Xin admitted, "I was anxious."
Wang Yihan was in a rematch of last year's worlds final with Cheng Shao-chieh of Taiwan, and Wang conceded the same number of points in the same amount of time as she won 21-14, 21-11.
"I'm playing at the same level (as the worlds)," Wang said.
Li Xuerui, who came out of nowhere this year to earn a last-minute Olympic berth, beat Yip Pui Yin of Hong Kong 21-12, 22-20, winning the last game from
Wang Xin has taken all five previous matches against Li Xuerui, but their semifinal will be their first matchup this year, and Li has won 34 of her last 35 matches.
"I understand her style better but she understands mine better as well," Li said.
As for a Chinese sweep, Li said, "None of us can say we are definitely confident on getting gold, but each of us will certainly try our hardest."
Nehwal, in the form of her life having won 14 straight matches, was too hot for Danish veteran Tine Baun, who was put away 21-15, 22-20 in her third and last Olympics.
"Reaching the semis is a great, great thing for me," Nehwal said. "The last time I was in the Olympics I was a bit disappointed because in the quarterfinals I was 11-3 up and lost (to Maria Kristin Yulianti of Indonesia). I still can't forget it which makes it torture for me. This time I'm very happy."
She's never beaten Wang Yihan, however, and Nehwal said it will take an effort of more than 100 percent.
"It's not easy to play with her," she said.
In mixed doubles, Zhang and Zhao, the world champions, edged Joachim Fischer and Christinna Pedersen of Denmark 17-21, 21-17, 21-19 in 82 minutes.
Xu and Ma beat Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia 21-23, 21-18, 21-13 in 75 minutes. Natsir won the mixed doubles silver medal in Beijing, and will play for bronze against the Danes.
The defeat of Ahmad and Natsir meant Indonesia will not win badminton gold at an Olympics for the first time.
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