Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying had just lost a heartbreaker in her Olympic badminton gold medal match final on Sunday, but comforting words from fellow shuttler P.V. Sindhu of India helped her work through a cauldron of emotions.
In a Facebook post late on Sunday, Tai wrote that she was feeling reasonably satisfied with her performance after losing to China’s Chen Yufei 18-21, 21-19, 18-21 in the women’s singles final, when Sindhu, who won bronze, sought her out after the medal ceremony.
Sindhu, who lost to Tai in the semi-finals on Saturday, hugged the Taiwanese athlete.
“You performed very well. Today just wasn’t your day,” she said.
Sindhu then held Tai and told her she knew all about disappointment, which the world No. 1 player said touched her deeply.
“That sincere encouragement made me burst out in tears... I was really sad because I tried so hard,” Tai wrote.
As much as Tai was gutted by not coming away with gold in a match decided by several unforced errors from the 27-year-old Taiwanese, it was by far her best showing in a major event.
She did not advance past the round of 16 in the Olympics in 2012 or 2016 and had never advanced past the quarter-finals in a World Championship.
“Deep down I tried to tell myself I was good and I did my best,” Tai said, adding that all she could do was accept the outcome.
Although she did not win gold, she felt the loss would provide motivation.
“The disappointment of not standing in first place on a podium is still there, but because nothing is always perfect, it motivates you to perform better,” Tai wrote.
Prior to the Tokyo Games, the Taiwanese had hinted that this could be her last appearance at a major international sporting event.
“Maybe I won’t have another shot at the Olympics, but all I can say is that I have achieved this goal, even though the result was not what I had hoped for,” she wrote.
More than any athlete at the Games, Taiwanese fans yearned for the popular Tai to bring home a gold, having watched her hold down the world’s top ranking in women’s singles for more than 150 weeks, but never hitting it big on the sport’s biggest stage.
Originally from Kaohsiung, Tai was encouraged to pick up the sport at a young age, due to her parents’ fondness for the sport. By the sixth grade, she had qualified to compete in Taiwan’s top-tier competitions.
Her father, Tai Nan-kai, said he quickly saw her potential and began investing more time and money into her training.
She progressed, but soon complained that “she was always going to competitions, while other kids got to enjoy outings with their father,” he said.
Tai Nan-kai would take her around the nation to various competitions, including against adults, to help her experience various styles of play, he said.
The badminton prodigy became world No. 1 at the age of 22 in December 2016, and has held that position for stretches since.
Tai Tzu-ying was the women’s singles gold medalist in the 2018 Asian Games and 2017 Summer Universiade.
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