I've been on a badminton streak these past two days with the Yonex All-England Open Badminton Championships that was held in Birmingham. As the English commentator, a former badminton player, mentioned, the All England is akin to the Wimbledon for tennis.
Here are several highlights:
Chen Jin (CHN) was up against fellow compatriot Lin Dan. The 2-month military training stint done wonders to Super Dan's game, in other words, he was perfect. In no time, he sent Chen Jin running across the court. However, in the second match, succumbed to a back injury and retired from the match, leaving the former military man to march into the finals against the world number 1 - Lee Chong Wei (MAS).
In the mixed doubles event, Zheng Bo was partnered with Ma Jin instead of the usual Gao Ling who had retired. They played against the Koreans Ko Sung Hyun and Ha Jung Eun, a new pair. I was siding the Koreans this match. Zheng Bo displayed bad sportmanship when he hit a wild shuttle into the air in anger at Ma Jin's incompetency. From there on, the foundations of the Chinese were shaken and the Koreans triumphed over them in a short while.
The highly anticipated match between the two top players in the world was feared to be a repitition of the Beijing Olympic Finals by most Malaysians. However, it wasn't as Chong Wei put up a strong fight against Lin Dan. The fight ended in straight sets 21-19, 21-12 in favour of Lin Dan. It is his fourth All England title and his first tournament since being absent for 3 months.
“I think we both played very well today and really the winner today was the game of badminton. I think we gave the spectators what they wanted and Lee Chong Wei was as much a part of that as I was. I have won everything there is to win in badminton now but I still have motivation to be the best ambassador for the sport I can. Without doubt this is a huge motivation for me,” said Lin Dan after his historic win.
A huge shocker was 29-year-old Tine Rasmussen's (DEN) straight-set loss to junior Wang Yihan (CHN) in the women's singles. The calm and expressionless 21-year old managed to overcome her disadvantage of a short reach to beat the veteran who was probably exhausted after her 130 point semi-finals against Jiang Yanjiao just 24 hours before.
In the women's doubles, disappointingly Zhao Tingting-Zhang Yawen beat their fellow mates Cheng Shu-Zhao Yunlei by an error made by the line judge. The final point was won although the shuttle returned by Cheng-Zhao was in. Trust line judges.
An entertaining match was the men's doubles featuring Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng (CHN) versus Hwang Ji Man-Han Sang Hoon (KOR). The interfering service judge kept faulting Han Sang Hoon for serving above the waist. To avoid further faults, he visibly pulled up his shorts and tucked in the front of his shirt, much to the amusement of the service judge and the crowd. There was an incident from the Koreans where a shuttle was smashed onto the head of their partner. Fu Haifeng, the super smasher managed a shuttle speed of 291 km/hr! The Chinese won in straights, closing the event.
Cai Yun (L) and Haifeng celebrating their win.
Overall, China swept all five medals in the All England - the first country to achieve that after 60 years.