SPORTS

China closes in on 1st-ever Olympic badminton sweep after winning 2nd and 3rd golds

08/04/2012 07:09 EDT | Updated 10/04/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - China was more than halfway to an unprecedented sweep of the Olympic badminton titles after winning the women's singles and scandal-tainted doubles on Saturday.

The Chinese have swept the last two world championships, including in the same Wembley Arena a year ago, but never the Olympics. They came closest in Beijing when they missed only the men's doubles, which they have never won.

Li Xuerui downed top-ranked world champion Wang Yihan in the all-Chinese singles final for the second gold, then Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei won the doubles in the absence of disgraced teammates and world champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang.

Wang and Yu were one of four women's pairs disqualified for trying to lose their group matches and embarrassing badminton. But winning for Wang and Yu and making China proud again has become a rallying cry for all of the team.

"It's been the collective effort of all my teammates to put this incident behind us and achieve top results," Wang Yihan said. "We've done well and need to work harder to achieve five gold medals in the next day."

Zhao Yunlei, who became the first player to win two badminton golds in one Olympics, admitted they wanted to win for Wang and Yu.

"China is a great team. Whether challenged or encouraged, we try to turn it into positive results," said Zhao, who opened China's gold account in the mixed doubles on Friday.

On Sunday, Lin Dan will defend his singles title against Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, then four-time world champions Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng will meet Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen of Denmark in the doubles.

While China still won the women's doubles, the scandal fallout had a silver lining for Japan, and a bronze lining for Russia, as they claimed their first badminton medals.

Tian and Zhao defeated high school friends Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa of Japan 21-10, 25-23, and China head coach Li Yongbo, who shouldered the blame for the demise of Wang and Yu, congratulated Tian and Zhao for giving the team it's fifth straight women's doubles gold medal.

"We should win the gold medals. Even though there was the problem with our first seed pair, these are champions and they were under pressure," he said. "The country and the people will be proud."

Russia's Valeria Sorokina and Nina Vislova didn't believe their bronze was tainted by the scandal. They dispatched Alex Bruce and Michelle Li of Canada 21-9, 21-10 in the playoff, three days after both pairs thought their competition had ended.

"I think we had good luck having the chance to take part in today's competition," Vislova said. "It's a super day for us. We deserved it."

In the singles final, Li Xuerui confirmed she was the world's best player at the expense of Wang Yihan, the world champion and No. 1

Li won 21-15, 21-23, 21-17 in a 78-minute heavyweight fight, her 36th win in her last 37 matches. She has beaten Wang four straight times, after starting the year as a relative unknown.

Her remarkable winning run forced China to choose her at the deadline less than a month ago, ahead of former No. 1 Wang Shixian.

"From being selected to today was a short while ago, and to be honest I'm still in a dream," Li said.

Also living the dream were Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen of Denmark, who won the match of the day when they stunned Chung Jae-sung and Lee Yong-dae of South Korea 17-21, 21-18, 22-20 in the men's doubles semifinals.

Cai and Fu, the four-time world champions, enjoyed their easiest win over Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong of Malaysia in two years, 21-9, 21-19. That earned them a second chance at an Olympic gold medal after losing the final in Beijing.

"It would mean so much to us as a pair (to win this time) and so much for the Chinese team," Fu said.

Top-ranked Chung and Lee were expected to continue badminton's best rivalry with Cai and Fu into Sunday's final by defeating Boe and Mogensen, whom they'd beaten five out of six times in the last year.

But Danish coach Claus Poulsen said win-loss records never count.

"If you look at the record they are not Olympic matches," Poulsen said. "At the Olympics we believed anything can happen."

MORE:cpSports