Taiwanese badminton stars Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin yesterday advanced to the gold medal match of the men’s doubles, while Taiwanese top seed Tai Tzu-ying got off to a rough start in a nail-biting women’s singles quarter-final against Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, but rallied with a series of flash backhand smashes.
Lee and Wang beat Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan 21-11, 21-10 in their men’s doubles semi-final to set up a shot at the gold medal against China’s Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen, who had a 24-22, 21-13 win over Malaysia’s Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik.
Tai rallied from a game down to defeat Intanon 14-21, 21-18, 21-18.
At one point, the Taiwanese hit two stunning backhands in quick succession while on the floor, prompting disbelieving gasps and cheers from the scant audience at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza.
Tai is to face Rio de Janeiro Games silver medalist P.V. Sindhu in the semi-finals after the Indian used her height advantage to smash her way to a 21-13, 22-20 victory over Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi.
Earlier, Chinese world No. 2 Chen Yufei prevailed 21-18, 21-19 against South Korea’s An Se-young.
“Being patient is the only way you can win in the game,” Chen said.
Chen next plays her teammate He Bingjiao, who rallied to beat Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara 13-21, 21-13, 21-14.
“It doesn’t matter now who wins the game tomorrow as long as we do our best,” Chen said.
China, who have yet to lose a single badminton match to another nation at the Games, won gold and silver in the mixed doubles after Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping beat favorites Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong 21-17, 17-21, 21-19.
For over an hour, the four players who regularly train with one another put on a show of sharp drop-shots, solid smashes and lengthy rallies.
After world No. 3 Wang and Huang pulled off a rare win over their top-ranked compatriots, both pairs were euphoric up on the podium and the new Olympic champions playfully bit into their gold medals.
“I feel blank,” said Wang, who was tackled onto the court with a hug by his much smaller teammate when they won. “It was easier because it was our teammates — we didn’t have as much of a psychological burden.”
Japan bagged their first-ever Olympic mixed doubles bronze medal when Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino, who have played together for a decade, defeated Hong Kong’s Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet 21-17, 23-21 in a tight match.
Exhausted, the Japanese both said there were times they wanted to throw in the towel.
Watanabe said he was honored to be the first Japanese man to win an Olympic medal in badminton.
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