China's clean sweep after match-fixing scandal

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In the Wembley Arena in London, China's shuttlers for the first time raked in all the five Olympic gold medals.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." In the Wembley Arena in London, China's shuttlers for the first time raked in all the five Olympic gold medals, including the one from men's doubles which had long been elusive.

But their victory seemed to be overshadowed by the match-fixing scandal that rocked the nation.

Final fantasy

Sunday saw what might be the last Olympic encounter between China's badminton star Lin Dan and his arch-rival for a era, Lee Chong Wei from Malaysia. It was just one shot, which went across the back line of the court. But because it was the match point, fate became different for those at two sides of the net.

When the overjoyed Lin threw away his racket, rushing around the arena for celebration and flinging his vest to the audience, his rival sat on the court, burying his face in the hands in remorse.

The word "heart-stirring" was not enough to describe how fierce the competition was, as they were both best shuttlers in an era, topping the world rankings alternatively.

Lee, the No. 1 seed, changed his direction abruptly in the first game, posing threats to the Beijing Olympic champion with diagonal smashes. With a lapse of Lin, the set concluded 15-21.

The beginning of the second game saw the duo locked in a tug of war, before Lin began pulling ahead after a long exchange and finished the set quickly with a drop shot 21-10.

Atmosphere became strained in the decider, when shots from both players became faster and the pair tumbled sometimes for a retrieval. Even the umpire began making mistakes and corrected after being challenged by Lin.

Their scores tied from 1-1 to 19-19. Each tiny lapse at this time could be fatal.

Lee broke the ice first by making a mistake to send the bird into the net, and then struck the last shot out of the court. 21-19. The audience seethed with excitement.

Lin comforted Lee with a hug, while the song, We Are the Champions, resonated in the arena.

"I think this medal is a recognition of my efforts in the past four years," the 29-year-old Lin said. "After the Beijing Olympics, I had to work harder to defend my title, as more people wanted to beat me."

Lin became emotional at the topic of the "big four", or the four best players in the past 10 years. "We are not only rivals, but good friends," he said, referring to Lee, Indonisian prodigy Taufik Hidayat and Denish legend Peter Gade. "I am so lucky to have such great and respectable opponents in my career, and I do cherish each opportunity playing with them."

With an ankle injury, Lee Chong Wei was so eager to win the gold medal, which would have been the first gold for Malaysia. "But I lost. It was very hard to beat Lin," he said. "There is just one Lin Dan in the world and he is great."

Four years ago in Beijing, the final of men's singles was similar, when Lee was outgunned by his Chinese foe, to whom, however, the 30-year-old Malaysian has mixed feelings

"In fact, we are good friends," he said. "I hope we can be friends forever."

China's badminton head coach Li Yongbo felt sorry for Lee Chong Wei. "To be frank, it was not easy for him, and the loss was such a pity," he said. "He was born in a wrong time. Without Lin Dan, he has been the champion already. They are equally outstanding."


Since 1992 when badminton was first introduced to the Olympics, Chinese badminton players are making breakthrough all the time. In 1992, no gold medals were achieved by the Chinese, while today China has become the powerhouse in that sport.

But badminton fans might have sort of a pity, as men's doubles has always been the Achilles' heel for the Chinese.

Situation changed on Sunday, when pin-up Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng beat their rivals to win the first Olympic gold medal in the event, outgunning Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen from Denmark 2-0.

The duo geared up quickly in the first game to rule the court, registering a 21-16 victory.

In the second game the Danish made desperate attempts. Li Yongbo, China's badminton head coach, shouted from the stand every now and then. With Cai Yun's last shot missed by the rivals, China won, 21-15.

Cai Yun rushed out of the court for celebration, while his partner Fu shed tears in excitement.

"This is the exact result we aimed for," said Cai, 32. "We have been playing together for over 10 years, and have entered the Olympics three times. Last time in Beijing we only won silver, and we were regretful since."

The combination of Fu Haifeng's power with his regular partner Cai Yun's speed enabled the pair to become world's leading men's doubles team since 2004. After the Beijing Olympics, however, they seemed to be in a downturn.

"After failure, we were more mature," said Cai. "For match we were not afraid of failure, we tried to enjoy it. We were not scared at all, not nervous. Part of the reason we won was we were full of confidence."

Fu, 28, said the title was like "a dream come true". "This will probably be the greatest recognition of our badminton career," he said. "Next time, our performance might be even better because we don't have any pressure now since we have achieved this goal."

Li Yongbo was delighted at the result.

"I hope that these medals could change people's perception on the event," he said. "In fact, Cai and Fu have harvested 14 world titles. This victory is a new starting point for us."

Dark evening

The Wembley Arena witnessed the darkest evening on Tuesday since the beginning of badminton events at the London Olympics, when players were not cheered and applauded for their performances, but hissed and booed.

It is not surprising to lose in a competition, but Chinese shuttlers Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli lost in such a dubious way in women's doubles that angered spectators.

Yu and Wang looked sluggish throughout the game, while their South Korean rivals - Jung Kyung-Eun and Kim Ha-Na, were not as aggressive as usual, either. In the end, the South Koreans won 21-14 and 21-11.

The umpire called a halt in the middle of the first set following a series of serves hit into the net by both sides and reminded the pairs to take the game seriously. But the situation didn't seem to change.

Yu and Wang served into the net at least three times, while the South Koreans missed their serves a few times or simply struck the shuttlecook wide.

The second set saw the four players make as many mistakes as in the first set.

It was only when spectators began booing and whistling did they lash some smashes.

When the competition finished, the players walked out of the arena in hoots of derision. Both pairs have already qualified from Group A and will meet players from Group C in the quarterfinals, and the loss kept the Chinese duo from meeting their compatriots earlier.

The farce was repeated about an hour later in another match between Ha Jung Eun/Kin Min Jung from South Korea and Meiliana Jauhart/Greysia Polii from Indonisia. They were given black cards by the referee.

The three teams all gave explanations at the inquiry of journalists, finding excuses and passing the buck to one another.

As a result, they were charged with "not using one's best efforts to win a match" and "conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport", and disqualified by the Badminton World Federation (BWF).

Thomas Lund, chief operating officer of the BWF, was bombarded by reporters after the disqualification. A few reporters asked the same question: whether the group play format used in London encouraged game-throwing.

Previously players went through a series of knock-out competitions before mounting the podium, and outcry arose for amending loopholes in the system.

Lund admitted that BWF should take the responsibility to review the group play format. "This needs to be a thorough review through our committees and council through next month and year up to Rio 2016," he said

On the other hand, Li Yongbo, together with the two Chinese players involved, apologized.

"As head coach, I owe the supporters of Chinese badminton and the Chinese TV audiences an apology," he said. "Chinese players failed to demonstrate the fine tradition and fighting spirit of the national team."

Fortunately, another Chinese pair Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei were crowned in the discipline, serving more or less as emollient to the Chinese fans.

But moment of victory are transient.

In Wembley where the London held its second Olympics in 1948, there was a poster with words of Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympics.

"The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

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