August 3 - China claimed the first badminton gold medal of the Olympics as Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei raced to victory over compatriots Xu Chen and Ma Jin, 21-11, 21-17.
Both pairs endured tough semi-finals yesterday against Denmark's Joachim Fischer and Christinna Pederson and Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad of Indonesia respectively.
The first set was won by Zhang and Zhao (pictured top) in convincing fashion.
Zhang was in particularly good form as his fierce forehand caused a constant problem for Chen and Jin.
Zhang and Zhao raced into a 9-4 lead early on and there was then never fewer than three points at most between them for the rest of the set, with Jin and Chen forced into a series of errors.
In the second set Zhang and Zhao were again in irresistible form, racing into an 8-0 lead.
When Zhao missed her return on the next point, it prompted a huge cheer from the crowd, hoping to see something resembling a sporting contest.
They then mounted a revival, capped by a wonderful drop shot from Jin, to bring the scores back to 10-6, before normal service was then resumed.
Just as Zhang and Zhao seemed to be cruising to gold, Jin and Xu mounted a comeback to bring the score back to 19-17.
It looked as though they could force their way to a third set, but on the next poitn Xu's desperate dive was not enough to keep a long rally going, and Zhang and Zhao then clinched their match point to win a deserved gold.
The bronze medal was won by Pederson and Fischer, who defeated their Indonesian rivals Natsir and Ahmad 21-12 in both sets earlier on Friday.
Zhao said: "We have been training very hard in preparation for this.
"I think this gold medal is just the beginning of our career."
She denied that the victory had been easy, saying: "Maybe it is because we are familiar with our team members and nevertheless we still played very hard."
The triumph was just what China would have wanted after the fiasco earlier this week when two of their players, Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang, prompted the biggest scandal of the tournament so far.
They intentionally tried to lose their match against South Korean pair Jung Kyung Eun and Kim Ha Na, with two more pairs trying the same trick later on Tuesday evening in a bid to receive an easier draw in the quarter finals.
China's Olympic Committee clamped down hard on the athletes, making clear their disapproval and telling them to apologise for their behaviour, with Yu subsequently announcing her intention to retire.
So it was just what both they and the Badminton World Federation would have wanted when today's mixed doubles final provided an entertaining and pulsating afternoon's entertainment.
Zhao sought to put the difficult few days for Chinese badminton behind her by simply stating: "Everybody prefers doing our very best to achieve the best performance."
The defeated Jin was disappointed after the loss but said the defeat would only strengthen her resolve.
"Although I did not achieve gold I performed to the best of my efforts.
"In future I will play even harder to achieve more."
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