Monday 22 August 2016
IT'S ONE year to go .... and Spain’s Carolina Marin and China’s Chen Long will head for Glasgow this time next year to contest the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2017 not just as double world champions but as Olympic gold medallists.
But just as exciting, Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei is coming too as he continues his quest for a world title to make up for his latest Olympic disappointment, losing a third final in a row. And that could be enough to persuade his great rival and good friend Lin Dan of China to prolong his glittering career too.
Marin, who is also double European champion, won a thrilling women’s singles title in Rio, coming from behind to defeat P.V. Sindhu of India 19-21 21-12 21-15 in 83 minutes. The bronze medal went to Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara on a walkover after China’s defending champion Li Xuerui had to concede the third-place play-off because of the injury suffered later on in her semi-final defeat by Marin.
The top seed and world No. 1, the first European to win the Olympic women’s singles title, said: “My dream has come true but there’s been a lot of work behind this medal. I want to say thanks to my team, to Spain, to my hometown Huelva, to my parents, my boyfriend and to all my family in Spain.
“It has been a tough two months of training and in every seassion I thought about the medal and how I wanted to fight for it – and it has come true. I am very happy.”
She is no stranger to success at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, having won the women’s singles title at the Scottish Open Grand Prix in 2013. She beat Scotland’s GB star Kirsty Gilmour in the final.
Chen Long added the Olympic title to his two world crowns when he defeated Chong Wei 21-18 21-18 in the men’s singles final.
While the Chinese top seed had reached the final with a 21-14 21-15 semi-final win over Viktor Axelsen in a match lasting just 29 minutes, Chong Wei had to battle for 83 minutes to overcome double Olympic champion Lin Dan on his fourth match point in an epic encounter 15-21 21-11 22-20.
The long duel undoubtedly took its toll on both players because Lin Dan lost the bronze medal match 15-21 21-10 21-17 as Axelsen took the third-place contest in a 63-minute encounter. Chen Long took a minute longer to complete his two-game victory over Chong Wei.
The Malaysian superstar had hinted at retirement after his semi-final win although Lin Dan had earlier suggested that he might carry on competing if his great rival did the same.
But after the men’s singles final Chong Wei said: “I haven’t won the Olympic gold in three finals. I must accept this. My opponent played better.
“I have one more year to go. I will play till the World Championships next year.”
Chen Long paid tribute to Chong Wei and Lin Dan, saying: “I must thank Chong Wei. We youngsters have learned a lot from seniors like him and Lin Dan. They never give up.”
Which is why Lin Dan has not ruled out continuing despite for once finishing without a medal. He said: “This is a huge chapter in my life. I will rest and think about my options.” But earlier in the week he had hinted that if Chong Wei continued then perhaps he would stick around as well.
The one thing driving Chong Wei on is the fact that, having once again failed in his quest for Olympic glory having now lost three successive finals, a world title has also eluded him in a glittering career. He has lost four world finals.
But he will be two months short of 35 by the time Glasgow 2017 comes round. Lin Dan is a year younger – his birthday is a week earlier than Chong Wei – so he will be almost 34 at next year’s World Championships. Poland’s Robert Mateusiak may be still going strong at 40 in mixed doubles but it is harder for singles players once they are 30-somethings.
Chen Long and Axelsen represent the future in the men’s game while Marin leads the European challenge to China, Korea and resurgent Japan.
Expect to see all Team GB’s stars in Glasgow next summer. Kirsty Gilmour and Rajiv Ouseph will be among the singles stars competing while the big GB heroes Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge will also be on parade.
They defeated the No. 3, 5 and 8 seeds on the way to a bronze medal – Team GB’s first medal success in men’s doubles at the Olympics and the first GB medal since Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms’ silver in Athens 2004. Britain’s only other badminton medal went to Simon Archer and Jo Goode at Sydney 2000.
Gold medallists: Men’s singles: Chen Long (China)
Women’s singles: Carolina Marin (Spain)
Men’s doubles: Fu Haifeng & Zhang Nan (China)
Women’s doubles: Misaki Matsutomo & Ayaka Takahashim (Japan)
Mixed doubles: Tontowi Ahmad & Liliyana Natsir (Indonesia)