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Olympic Spotlight – Badminton

 

 

 

Continuing Tianjin Plus’ series in the run up to this year’s Summer Olympic Games in London, this month, badminton - China’s traditional strong suit -  comes under the spotlight.
The category where China will be most confident of a clean medal sweep in London is badminton, historically the Middle Kingdom’s strongest sport in international competition.
Asia has dominated Olympic badminton since its introduction to the Games in 1992 and China, Indonesia, and South Korea have won 23 of the 24 gold medals awarded since the sport was first included.


Badminton at this year’s Olympics will consist of five different events; men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. In total, 172 athletes will compete and each nation is permitted a maximum of three men and women singles competitors, and no more than two pairs amongst the 16 pairs participating in each of the three doubles events.


The major quandary for the Chinese Badminton Association is that only a handful of their star players can be selected for the Olympic squad. Official qualifiers for the five events will be taken from the official World Badminton Federation rankings lists on April 30th, but as it stands the current world number five, China’s Chen Jin – the 2010 World Champion – will miss out on qualification for London as only the fourth highest ranked Chinese!


With five Chinese men inside the top-16, and six Chinese women, there is a massive internal battle within Chinese badminton to make the Olympic squad.
China swept three of the five golds in Beijing four years ago, and eight of the 15 medal s on offer. In fact, China has topped the badminton medal tally at the last editions of the Olympics, but has, as yet, failed to take a clean sweep of the medals. They will be largely expected to take that extra step in London this year.


China’s current dominance of world badminton is illustrated by the top of the world rankings for each of the five events.


Chinese players sit at the top of the rankings in four of the five categories, with iconic Chinese shuttler Lin Dan only second to Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia in the men’s singles rankings.


Already one of the biggest sporting rivalries in Asian sport, badminton fans will be hoping for a repeat of the 2008 Olympics men’s singles final between China’s Lin Dan (or ‘Super Dan’ as he is affectionately known) and Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei.


The two have enjoyed a thrilling rivalry in recent years and have been paired together at some stage of most recent top international tournaments. Of the pair’s 27 meetings to date, Lin has won 18 while Lee has nine wins.


The most recent meeting between the two was their epic final at the BWF World Championships in London back in August last year when Lin Dan prevailed 20-22, 21-14, 23-21. Lee had had two match points for a first World Championship, only for Lin to fight back and take the title. 


China would go on to scoop a clean sweep of all five medals at that event.


Lin is often referred to as the greatest badminton player of all time having won Olympic gold and four World Championships among a host of other titles, but he is currently ranked number two to Lee after the Malaysian.


At 28 and 29 years old respectively, Lin and Lee are reaching the end of their careers and the hope is that the 2012 Games could see one last great battle between the two. Lee has already expressed his intention to retire after the London Games and it is thought Lin will follow suit, especially if he were to claim a second Olympic gold.


China holds the top three berths in the women’s rankings with the three Wangs (Yihan, Xin and Shixian) occupying the top spots. Since the retirement of two-time Olympic gold medallist Zhang Ning, the three have battled for supremacy in the women’s game. After sealing World Championship gold in 2011, 24-year-old Wang Yihan currently holds the top spot and is heavy favourite for Olympic gold in London.

 

***DID YOU KNOW?***


For the first time, in London, players will compete in a group stage before the knockout phase begins.

 

***DID YOU KNOW?***


China’s five gold medals at the 2011 World Championships was their second consecutive clean sweep, and only the second in 24 years.

 

***DID YOU KNOW?***


Badminton is traditionally one of the most popular events at the Olympics and will call the 6,000-seater Wembley Arena home during the London Games.

 

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