ATLANTA '96

SPORT-BY-SPORT GUIDE No 4: Badminton
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The Independent Online
So sure are Julie Bradbury, Joanne Wright and Simon Archer of being good enough to become the first Britons to win Olympic badminton medals that they refused to play for England in the sport's pre-eminent regular event, the world team finals at the Thomas and Uber Cups .

This caused a major controversy and although by their actions the trio gained more time to prepare, they may inadvertently have placed more pressure on themselves to deliver in Atlanta.

All-England finalists Bradbury and Archer look capable of handling that in the mixed doubles, but Bradbury and Wright may need to recapture last year's exceptional form, when they won the Malaysian Open, if they are to earn a women's doubles medal. It is difficult to see other Britons getting in contention, although Darren Hall, the former European champion, qualified in the top 16 of the men's singles.

Europeans hope to deny the dominant Asians more than last time. In Barcelona they gained only one medal, but the progress of the Danish squad and the presence of Sweden's Lim Xiaoquing, who left China after the Tiananmen Square riots and won the All-England last year, could cause a little loosening of the Far East stranglehold.

The huge popularity of the game out there was primarily responsible for badminton becoming the most watched sport on television world-wide at the Barcelona Olympics until the athletics began. A disappointing sequel is that American television is almost certain to reject it.

Sadly, few Americans are concerned as to whether Susi Susanti, the greatest women's player in history, can win gold again before retiring to marry Allan Budi Kusuma. Probably even less will care which of the three brilliant Indonesians, world champion Heryanto Arbi, world grand prix title holder Joko Suprianto or defending champion Kusuma, is most likely to win the men's gold, or whether China's on-song Dong Jiong can stop them.

BRITISH TEAM: D Hall, P Knowles, J Muggeridge, A Gibson, C Hunt, S Archer, N Ponting, J Robertson, J Bradbury, J Wright, K Morgan.

James Leigh

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