Spain's Marin wins badminton gold over India's Sindhu

 20 Aug 2016 - 0:00

Spain's Marin wins badminton gold over India's Sindhu
Gold medallist Carolina Marin (ESP) of Spain poses on the podium REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo

 

By FOSTER KLUG
 

RIO DE JANEIRO: Carolina Marin of Spain beat P.V. Sindhu of India on Friday to take gold in women's singles badminton, a victory that signals a clear end to China's previous lock on the sport.

Marin, the world No. 1 and heavy favorite ahead of the Rio Games, fell face first on the court, then kneeled and wept after her hard-fought 2-1 victory. Marin beat Li Xuerui, the defending Olympic champion from China, to get to the gold medal match.

Earlier in men's singles Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia overcame two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan of China to advance to the finals against a younger Chinese star, Chen Long. Lee avenged his losses to Lin in the previous two Olympic finals.

Sindhu, ranked world No. 10, made a strong run through the tournament, beating higher-ranked Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in the semifinals. Her silver medal makes up somewhat for the disappointing run of fellow Indian Saina Nehwal, who won bronze in London but crashed out of the Rio Games early. Okuhara took bronze in Rio.

In the first game of the gold medal match, Marin cruised to an early lead, displaying her superior experience by repeatedly rushing the net and slamming winners back toward an often befuddled Sindhu. But the Indian settled down, chasing down smashes and drop shots and rallying to tie the game at 19. Then, in rapid succession, Sindhu took two points to stun the Spaniard, 21-19.

The second game saw an aggressive Marin, who often shrieked and pumped her fist to celebrate winners, win 21-12. In the deciding game Sindhu came back from a deficit and tied the match at 10 after a long rally. But Marin opened another lead to win 21-15.

Lee's victory over Lin in the men's semifinal match was a thriller. Both men are considered by many to be the best players of their era, and maybe of all time.

Lee's reaction at the end — falling to his knees, covering his face with his hands and putting his forehead on the court before leaping up in the air and pumping his fists — made it seem more like a gold medal contest than the semifinals.

Lin jumped out to a commanding early lead in the first game of the best-of-three match, and fended off a Lee rally to win 21-15. Lee, his nerves settled, came out fast in the second game and won 21-11. The deciding game was tense. Lee stretched out a small margin toward the end and was on the brink of winning, but Lin charged back, fighting off several match points to tie the game at 20. Lee then pulled away to win 22-20.

Both men showed a mix of power, speed and guile, often charging the net like fencers to make lunging saves, leaping high in the air to hit powerful crosscourt smashes down the lines and, with a flick of the wrist, sending delicate drop-shot winners spinning just over the net.

Lee, who served an eight month doping ban, will have to overcome China's Chen Long, who ran over Viktor Axelsen of Denmark 2-0 in Friday's other men's semifinal.

In men's doubles, China's Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan beat Malaysia's Goh V. Shem and Tan Wee Kiong 2-1 for gold Friday.

The doubles gold and Chen Long are bright spots for China, but Lin's loss reflects the nation's general fall in badminton. Several top players, including medalists from past games, have lost early in Rio. China swept all five badminton gold medals at the 2012 London Games.

AP