Innovation and firsts light up badminton programme in BA
18-year-old Li Shifeng of China won gold in the men’s badminton singles competition with a 2-0 victory over higher ranked opponent Lakshya Sen of India. In the women’s singles final Li’s compatriot Zhiyi Wang was edged out 2-1 by Wei Jin Goh Mas of Malaysia. And in the relay team final, which featured teams made up of players from different nations, Team Alpha defeated Team Omega.
Japan's Kodai Naraoka and Thailand’s Phittayaporn Chaiwan won bronze in the men’s and women’s singles respectively, while Team Theta won bronze in the mixed team relay event.
Inspired by Lin Dan
For Li, YOG gold represented a first major step towards emulating his hero Lin Dan, a two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion, who is widely regarded as the greatest badminton player of all time.
“My father showed me videos of Lin Dan every day in my childhood, asking me to imitate his playing style,” Li said. “If there is something I don’t know (on the court), I will go for Lin’s video to find the answer.
“Now I will follow the steps of my idol to fight at the world championships and Olympic Games.”
In the final of the men’s singles, world junior No.6 Li got past his higher-ranked opponent Lakshya Sen of India (3) with surprising ease, although Sen rallied to save four successive match points before his Chinese opponent finally prevailed.
Li celebrated victory by collapsing in joy and ripping off his shirt. “I feel released after the victory as I have been busy preparing for it for more than one year,” Li said after repeating his countryman Shi Yuqi’s gold-medal triumph at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
“My teammate Shi won gold at Nanjing 2014. I have kept the gold in China this time. But my mission is still not completed as I have an even bigger dream.”
In the women’s singles Goh Jin Wei hit her target of winning Malaysia’s first-ever official gold medal at the YOG by coming from behind to beat China’s Wang Zhiyi in the final.
“I was so looking forward to winning the first YOG gold for my country,” Goh said. “But after achieving that, I have to (start again from zero). I hope I can perform well at senior level in the future.”
Thrilling new format
The badminton competition was rounded off with the new relay team event.
“No one was that sure how it would go until we started playing, but it works really well,” said New Zealand player Oscar Guo, who turned out for silver medal-winning team Omega, said. “I get to meet new people and get the team spirit which is quite important at the Olympic Games.”
Germany’s Lukas Resch, from bronze medal-winning team Theta, added: “It was really different and also very difficult to play. You are never going to know whether you will win or not until the last moment.
“It’s really about having athletes play together. Otherwise we will just fight with each other like enemies. Now we team up, I get to know them.”