(Clockwise from top left) China’s doubles pair Wang Xiaoli (left) and Yu Yang, South Korea’s Jung Kyung-eun (back) and Kim Ha-na, Indonesia’s Greysia Polli and Meiliana Jauhari and South Korea’s Ha Jung-eun (left) and Kim Min-jung during their matches at the London Olympics 2012. (Reuters)
London, Aug. 1: Badminton officials took the extraordinary step of tossing out four pairs of women for deliberately trying to lose their preliminary matches on Tuesday night, the latest judging controversy to sweep through the Olympics.
The disqualified players are Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang from China, the top-ranked women’s doubles pair, who lost on Tuesday to the South Korean team of Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na, who were also disqualified. The players were presumed to be trying to lose because neither wanted to face the second-ranked women’s pair of Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei in the quarter-finals.
Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung of South Korea and Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polli of Indonesia were also thrown out for lacklustre play in a later match on Tuesday.
An Indian appeal challenging the result of a Japan-Chinese Taipei match that led to the elimination of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa was rejected. (See Sport)
The disqualification came less than a day after the final matches in the preliminary rounds of the women’s doubles, where the players — all of whom had qualified for the quarter-finals — tried to throw their matches.
This is the first Olympics to include preliminary rounds in which four teams play one another once to determine who will advance to the knockout stage. The extra preliminary round was designed to give all teams — including those from weaker countries that might have been knocked out after one match under the old rules — a chance to play at least three times.
All four pairs who played on Tuesday had secured spots in the quarter-finals, so jockeying for an easier opponent was the imperative.
Because the Chinese so dominate the sport and are so numerous in the tournament, they have an incentive not to play one another when possible. And because they are so good, teams from other countries do their best to avoid the Chinese until they have no choice.
Throwing matches has been a persistent problem, and some players and officials have accused the Chinese of being the worst offenders.
The Badminton World Federation determined at a disciplinary hearing that the players in two separate matches tried to serve into the net and hit shots out of bounds. Their play led to hoots and catcalls from the packed house at Wembley Arena, with some fans yelling, “Off, off, off”.
The disqualification threw the tournament into turmoil. Indonesia appealed the decision, then withdrew it, and the Koreans had their appeal denied. The Chinese team did not appeal. As a result of their disqualification, women’s doubles teams from Australia, Canada, Russia and South Africa will take their place in the quarter-finals.