Badminton: China win scandal hit women's doubles competition

 

China ended the controversial Olympics women's doubles competition with gold after all as their second-best pair Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei held their nerve in the final.

The second seeds made a powerful start against Japan's Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa but needed four match points to complete a 21-10 25-23 victory at Wembley Arena.

The event had been completely overshadowed this week by the expulsion of China's world number ones Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang and three other pairs in a match-fixing scandal.

Wang and Yu tried to lose their final group match in an attempt to avoid being in the same half of the knockout draw as Tian and Zhao.

It will never be known if Tian and Zhao could have won gold if faced by Wang and Yu but the nerves did appear to get to them as they scented victory against the fourth seeds.

Whereas they seemed a class apart in the first game, errors crept in in the second and the Japanese grew in confidence.

The umpire appeared unimpressed with some possible delaying tactics by the Chinese, who fell 12-9 and 15-12 behind, but they rediscovered their composure to set up what proved a thrilling climax.

The Japanese did earn a game point themselves in an exhausting 36-minute second game but it was Tian and Zhao who came out on top.

The gold medal was China's second of the day after Li Xuerui's success in the women's singles and kept the country on course for all five at the tournament.

The women's doubles bronze went to Russia's Valeria Sorokina and Nina Visolova, one of the women's doubles pairs reprieved after this week's controversy.

The world number 18s were far too strong for the Canadians Alex Bruce and Michele Li, easing to a 21-9 21-10 win in the third-place play-off.

Li Xuerui's success in out-battling her illustrious compatriot Wang Yihan completed her fairytale rise to the top of the game.

The 21-year-old only burst onto the scene in the months leading up to the Games and was a late addition to the Chinese team.

Her selection has been fully justified but she needed to dig deep to see off Wang in a match that lasted 78 minutes.

She failed to convert two match points in the second game but managed to summon enough energy to clinch a draining encounter 21-15 21-23 21-17.

Wang, the world champion and world number one, had long seemed destined for the top prize but third seed Li's form throughout the week had suggested she could cause an upset.

So it proved as the youngster started superbly, showing great control and deception and rarely missing a winner to open up a 19-9 lead in the opening game.

Wang fought back to take a tension-filled second game after surviving two match points and the momentum of the decider swung from one way to the other as the error count grew.

The final twist came as Li pulled out the final four points in quick succession to complete victory.

China were denied all three podium positions in the women's singles after an unfortunate injury to second seed Wang Xin in the bronze medal match.

Wang jarred her knee late in the first game against fourth seed Saina Nehwal and play was delayed for her to receive treatment.

She picked herself up to win the point that secured the first game and she then won the opening rally of the second but collapsed moments later.

It soon became apparent she could not continue and Nehwal was awarded the match with the score 18-21 0-1 against her.

That meant India's first Olympic medal in badminton but Nehwal respectfully did not celebrate as she left court.

The men's doubles final will be between China's top seeds Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng and Denmark's Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen.

The Chinese eased past Malaysia's Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong while the Danes beat South Korea's Chung Jae-sung and Lee Yong-dae in the third game.

PA

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