Cheng Shao-chieh became the first Taiwanese woman to win a silver medal in the women’s singles at the World Badminton Championships in London on Sunday, losing the final to the world No. 2 Wang Yihan of China.
“I did not have the tactics to push through and I feel I was dictated by Wang’s rhythm in the game, but I am not disappointed because I have gotten better grades than I had expected, and I feel proud to be able to play for Taiwan and win a medal,” the 25-year-old world No. 8 said in an interview with Central News Agency after the tournament.
Cheng was defeated 15-21, 10-21 by Wang on Sunday at Wembley Arena. The games lasted just over 40 minutes.
Watching Cheng was an emotional ride. It was the first time that a Taiwanese player had made it to the final since the tournament began in 1977.
Cheng had a promising start and held the upper hand at 6-1 at the beginning of the first game, but Wang, 20cm taller, used her height to smash overhead drops down steeply and Cheng seemed unable to defend against Wang’s attack throughout the game.
Cheng’s fans took to Facebook to laud her gutsy display against Wang, saying Cheng had made the country proud with her performance.
“I felt I could have done better in today’s game. I was sorry! Thanks for all the support. Before, I promised I would have new breakthroughs and I made it, and I will take the gold medal next time,” Cheng said on her Facebook status message.
Sporting her trademark dyed pale yellow short hair, Cheng stunned the world during the quarter-finals by beating China’s world No. 1 Wang Shixian on Saturday. She then advanced smoothly to the final by beating Germany’s Juliane Schenk 21-18, 21-6 in only 33 minutes.
Her performance was better than that of Fung Permadi, who won Taiwan’s last silver medal at the 1999 World Championships in men’s singles, observers said. Fung was an Indonesian who played for Taiwan.
Cheng started learning badminton at the age of three under the tutelage of her father, who is a badminton coach. She says badminton is a central part of her life and, in spite of some ups and downs, she is glad she did not give up when she was not playing to her full potential.
Her best finish at a worlds prior to Sunday was a bronze medal in the women’s singles in 2005.
At the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 she suffered her worst loss by losing 21 points in a row. She was devastated by the crushing defeat and almost lost faith in her ability.
She took up surfing and gradually realized that winning wasn’t everything.
“I was very thankful that my fans still showed their support for me after my loss at the Beijing Games. I hope the fans can enjoy watching me play regardless of whether I win or lose,” she said.
Cheng will be awarded NT$1.5 million (US$52,000) by the government for winning a medal at the worlds. She is also scheduled to represent Taiwan at the Universiade currently being held in Shenzhen, China.
In the men’s singles, Olympic champion Lin Dan had a thrilling preparation for the defense of his title next year in London when he saved two match points to beat top-seeded Lee Chong Wei in a sensational final.
The Chinese star held off the challenge of the Malaysian heir apparent by 20-22, 21-14, 23-21 in 81 minutes after trailing 19-20 and 20-21 in the final game of the best contest yet between the two great men’s singles rivals.