Taiwan’s Hsieh Yu-hsing coasted to a 21-16, 21-12 win over Iranian Kaveh Mehrabi yesterday and although China’s leaders have repeated the mantra, ad nauseam, that the Olympic Games should not be politicized, its badminton fans had other plans yesterday.
When Hsieh took to the court, the Beijing crowd treated him as one of their own.
At one point during Hsieh’s match against Iran’s Kaveh Mehrabi someone in the crowd tried several times to start the chant “Go Team Taipei!” but the other spectators were not having it.
Moments later, a spectator on another side of the gymnasium started shouting “Go Team China!” and it caught on and was repeated throughout the match.
“It felt like I was back on my home court, like I was competing in Taiwan,” Hsieh said. “The crowd was really into it.”
But wouldn’t they be chanting something slightly different in Taiwan?
“Yes, yes,” Hsieh said. “But I wasn’t really thinking about it, I was just trying to be serious and play each game well.”
In other the matches, Canadian Anna Rice overcame opening-day nerves yesterday to defeat Eva Lee of the US in three sets at the Olympic badminton tournament.
Rice defeated Lee 21-15, 19-21, 21-19 in the first round of women’s singles at the Beijing University of Technology Gymnasium.
In earlier matches, Maria Kristen Yulianti of Indonesia rallied to defeat Juliane Schenk of Germany 18-21, 21-13, 22-20, setting up a second-round showdown with Spain’s Yoana Martinez. Martinez was a 21-9, 21-16 winner over Australia’s Erin Carroll.
Other first-round winners included Japan’s Eriko Hirose who defeated Iceland’s Ragna Bjorg Ingolfsdottir 21-6, 19-7.
Ingolfsdottir was forced to retire in the second set after twisting her left knee.
Larysa Gryga of Ukraine downed Italy’s Agnese Allegrini 21-15, 21-11. Egypt’s Hadia Hosny beat Mexico’s Deyanira Angulo 21-18, 7-21, 21-14.