RIO DE JANEIRO • Spanish badminton world No. 1 Carolina Marin took a major step towards a first Olympic gold medal on Thursday by beating defending champion Li Xuerui to progress to the final.
Marin's 21-14, 21-16 defeat of Li piled further misery on China, who won a clean sweep of five badminton gold medals at London 2012, but can now win only two at most.
In today's showdown, the 23-year-old Spaniard plays Indian P.V. Sindhu, who beat Japan's Nozomi Okuhara 21-19, 21-10.
"I don't know what's going to happen in the final, but I feel emotional because I have worked so hard for this, and I want to collect the reward tomorrow," said Marin.
China's shuttlers have struggled in Brazil after a formidable showing four years ago. The Asian giant missed out on an Olympic women's doubles badminton gold for the first time since the 1992 Barcelona Games, when Tang Yuanting and Yu Yang lost in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
It was a second blow to China in the space of 24 hours, after both their mixed doubles pairs lost in the semi-finals, which was eventually won by Indonesia's Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir.
Yesterday, there was further bad news for the Chinese team, who lost both third-place play-offs. Their women's doubles duo failed to even clinch a medal, losing to South Korea's Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan 21-8, 21-17.
And their second men's doubles pair of Chai Biao and Hong Wei were beaten by Britain's Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge 21-18, 19-21, 21-10.
China's final shots at glory will come in the men's singles and men's doubles. "Our team are strong and we've tried our best to perform well but now it's really competitive," said Li, following her loss to Marin.