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Chinese shuttlers enjoy golden day with mixed feelings
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On Saturday when two badminton golds were decided at Beijing University of Technology Gymnasium, Chinese shuttlers had mixed feelings as they took one, but lost the other.

Defending champion Zhang Ning, 33, retained her women's singles title of the Olympic badminton tournament by beating world No. 1 and her teammate Xie Xingfang 21-12, 10-21, 21-18.

"I have never stopped dreaming of standing on the podium," Zhang said after the match, which was a duel of will and courage instead of skills, as both were on the verge of exhaustion following days of fierce fights against the world's top players.

Zhang burst into tears as the last returning shuttlecock from Xie touched the net and fell to the ground of Xie's half.

"I thought once that I might not make it when Xie was keeping up with me in the third game. I was so tired," said Zhang. She said earlier that she wanted to have a second Olympic gold. "So I can have some sweet memories for myself."

Xie, on her part, said it was acceptable either of them winning the gold, but admitted she was disappointed over the defeat because she was unlikely to play in the London Olympic Games.

"Zhang and Xie presented the world a most wonderful match," said Li Yongbo, head coach of the Chinese national badminton team.

"It is really a miracle for Zhang Ning to retain the Olympic gold. Her entrance to the Beijing Olympic Games was even in doubt two months ago," Li Yongbo said. "Maybe this is the beauty of Olympiad."

But the Olympiad also exhibits its cruel side to Chinese men's doubles shuttlers, who have to wait another four years to break the jinx on them which prevented them to win a gold at Olympics.

Second seeds Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng failed to realize a 16-year dream of winning the men's doubles gold at Olympic Games, losing to top seeds Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan from Indonesia 21-12, 11-21, 16-21.

Sixteen years ago, Li Yongbo, the head coach of Chinese badminton team won the bronze medal at Barcelona Olympics in men's doubles with his partner Tian Bingyi. Since then, the Chinese men's doubles players had never bagged a single medal, not to mention a gold.

The Chinese duo actually has set a record for China to reach the final in the men's doubles, beating Danish veterans Jens Eriksen and Martin Lundgaard Hansen in the first round, Howard Bach and Bob Malaythong from the United States in the second round, and Lee Jae-jin and Hwang Ji-man in the semi-final.

"We've tried our best, and we felt no regret today," said 24-year-old Fu, satisfied with their performance throughout the whole tournament.

While Cai Yun, apparently upset with the result, expressed his desire to quit badminton, which in his mind, is not his whole life, but only a part of it.

Indonesia bagged two golds in men's doubles at the previous four Olympics, and Kido said they are very happy to continue this glorious tradition.

"I am happy to get the first gold medal in badminton for Indonesia at the Olympics. Tomorrow is Indonesia's Independence Day. It is a birthday present for Hendra and me and also for the nation," said Kido, who claimed the world championships title with Setiawan in 2007.

In the bronze medal final for women's singles, No. 3 seed Lu Lan failed to raise the national flag for China, losing to Maria Yulianti from Indonesia, the biggest dark horse at the tournament.

While the bronze medal of men's doubles went to South Korean Lee Jae-jin and Hwang Ji-man, who said at the press conference that he felt a lot of pressure to fight for the bronze medal which could excuse him from joining the Army.

In mixed doubles, top seeds Nova Widianto and Liliyana Natsir from Indonesia will meet Lee Yong-dae and Lee Hyo-jung from South Korea in the final on Sunday.

(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2008)

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