Thursday 2 August 2012
Last Update 2 August 2012 3:40 am
LONDON: Eight women badminton players were disqualified from the Olympics yesterday for deliberately trying to lose and manipulate the draw, angering fans and fellow athletes who said they undermined the spirit of the Games.
The controversy overshadowed the fifth full day of sporting action, when British cyclist Bradley Wiggins dominated the men’s time trial along packed streets of southwest London to become the country’s most decorated Olympian, just 10 days after his triumph in the Tour de France.
His was the second home gold of the day after Helen Glover and Heather Stanning rowed to victory in the women’s pair, ending an increasingly uncomfortable wait among host nation fans for their first Olympic title. (To view the medals standings, follow this link: http://www.arabnews.com/?q=sports/olympics-medals-tally-0
National euphoria was tempered by Tuesday night’s farcical events, however, when at Wembley Arena in London the crowd shouted abuse at badminton players who deliberately sprayed shots and duffed serves.
Four doubles pairs from China, South Korea and Indonesia were disqualified following a formal disciplinary hearing by the Badminton World Federation (BWF). An appeal by the South Koreans and Indonesians was turned down.
The players involved were China’s world champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang, Indonesia’s Greysia Polii and Meiliana Jauhari and two South Korean pairs — Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na, and Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung.
Several players and coaches pointed the finger of blame at the Chinese team for creating the scandal.
“I can say China has played dirty,” said Poland’s Korean head coach Young Man Kim. “They fixed the matches, that’s why everything is messy here.”
Players also slammed the BWF for instituting a format that was ripe for manipulation.
“Why would the tournament rules people have (a format) like this?” men’s singles world No. 1 Lin Dan told reporters. “If they just had a knockout round it would all be fine. You lose and that’s it,” the Chinese added.
Elsewhere yesterday, Wiggins cemented his place in history by becoming the first cyclist to win the Olympic time trial and the Tour de France in the same year.
In the equivalent women’s event, American Kristin Armstrong prevailed. The 38-year-old took time off after the Beijing Games in 2008 to start a family, and her son Lucas was there to celebrate the moment with his mother.
Wiggins’ was a British record seventh medal for the 32-year-old, awarded in the shadow of London’s historic Hampton Court Palace where King Henry VIII, famous for his six wives, would stay in the 16th century. Britain won its first gold of London 2012 when rowers Glover and Stanning dominated before a screaming crowd of 25,000, including Princes William and Harry, and many more glued to television screens.
“Ecstatic!” Glover told reporters at Dorney Lake in southern England. “It’s so surreal, it will take forever to sink in.”
Stanning, an army captain who may be sent to Afghanistan next year, only got together with Glover in 2010 after the pair missed out on qualifying for another boat.
Her exploits were cheered by fellow soldiers following the action at Camp Bastion in Helmand in the south of Afghanistan.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, during a visit to Northern Ireland, said he received the news after sitting on the “Wishing Chair” at Giant’s Causeway, one of Northern Ireland’s top tourist attractions.
China topped the medals table on Day Five with 15 golds and 27 overall, followed by the United States on 10 golds and 26 in total.
In the pool on Tuesday night, American swimmer Michael Phelps surpassed the previous medal record of 18 held for nearly half a century by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.
Latynina, born in Ukraine, said she was happy to see her record fall. “I think that keeping the Olympic world record for 48 years is long enough,” she told Reuters.
Phelps saluted his team mates in the 4x200 meters freestyle relay who flung their arms around him. “I thank those guys for helping me get to this moment,” he said.
US President Barack Obama personally tweeted his congratulations: “Congrats to Michael Phelps for breaking the all-time Olympic medal record. You’ve made your country proud. — bo,” he wrote on the micro-blogging site.
Obama also had warm words for the women’s gymnastics team, which struck gold on Tuesday.
“I have to tell you ... when people run track, you know, I understand, I know how to run — they are just much faster,” he said on the campaign trail in Mansfield, Ohio.
“And I know how to swim, they just swim much better than I do. These gymnastics folks, I don’t understand how they do what they do,” he added.
The swimming has dominated the first days of the Games, with high-profile athletics yet to start.
Australian James Magnussen, American Nathan Adrian and Brazilian Cesar Cielo, the world record holder, were due to thrash it out on Wednesday evening in the men’s 100 meters freestyle final.
Chinese prodigy Ye Shiwen won her second gold of the Games on Tuesday, setting an Olympic record in the 200 individual medley after stunning swimming pundits with her victory and world record in the 400 medley three days earlier.
The 16-year-old was forced to fend off insinuations of doping that drew a sharp response from Chinese officials as well as athletes and officials from other countries.
The dark side
The flap over the badminton was a reminder of the lengths to which countries and athletes will go to win gold, even if the Olympic charter says the Games are about sport pursued in “a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
South Korea head coach Sung Han-kook admitted his two pairings attempted to throw their matches against China’s world champion duo and the Indonesians, but said it was in retaliation against the Chinese team.
“The Chinese started this. They did it first,” Sung told reporters through an interpreter.
He said the Chinese deliberately tried to lose the first of the tainted matches to ensure their leading duo of Yu and Wang would not meet the country’s number two pair until the gold medal decider.
“It’s a complicated thing with the draws. They didn’t want to meet each other in the semi-final. So we did the same. We didn’t want to play the South Korean team again,” Sung said, referring to the knockout stages.
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