LONDON – Japan’s Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa advanced to the final of the women’s doubles badminton competition at the London Olympics by defeating a Canadian pair on Thursday, securing the first-ever medal for the country in the sport.
The world’s No. 5 pair won the last five points of the deciding match to beat Alex Bruce and Michele Li 21-12, 19-21, 21-13 in the semifinals at Wembley Arena.
“I’m happy (to secure) a medal but I was stiff in the match and couldn’t enjoy as much as I usually do,” said Kakiiwa. “Of course the outcome is important, but I hope to enjoy the final and get a rally going as long as possible.”
Fujii said, “I’m happy about getting a medal but I’m more frustrated because we weren’t able to play the match in our style. I didn’t think it would be so difficult to be in a situation of playing a match we were expected to win because it was against lower-ranked opponents.”
Ahead of the final match against China’s Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei on Saturday, she said, “I want to aim for the top spot.”
Japan’s Canadian opponents were among four previously eliminated teams that were elevated Wednesday to play in the quarterfinals to replace four disqualified pairs.
The World Badminton Federation disqualified the four teams, including China’s gold medal favorites Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang, for deliberately trying to lose their group stage matches in an attempt to earn a favorable draw in the quarterfinals.
Earlier in the men’s singles, Sho Sasaki fell to Beijing Olympic gold medalist and world No. 1 Lin Dan of China 21-12, 16-21, 21-16 in the quarterfinals. He was the first Japanese to compete in the event’s top eight.
“I was not playing in the wrong direction. It’s a confidence boost that I could play a game like this,” said Sasaki, who has said his ultimate aim had been to play against Lin at the Olympics.
“I enjoyed playing a rally with him and I felt sad that it had to come to an end,” Sasaki said. “I wanted to continue the rallies for as long as possible.”
Fixing scandal grows
Olympic officials demanded a deeper investigation into the badminton fixing scandal Thursday as China’s coach took the blame for a match being thrown at the London Games and a player appeared to quit the tarnished sport.
The IOC wants team coaches, trainers or officials of the four doubles pairs to be punished if they encouraged or ordered the eight, now-disqualified players to lose intentionally.