Olympics: India's Sindhu reaches gold medal decider

Sindhu Pusarla V. of India in action against Nozomi Okuhara of Japan.
Sindhu Pusarla V. of India in action against Nozomi Okuhara of Japan.PHOTO: EPA

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – Spanish badminton world number one Carolina Marin will do battle with ace Indian shuttler P. V. Sindhu for Olympic gold after they both breezed into the women’s singles final.

Marin beat Chinese defending champion Li Xuerui in straight games on Thursday (Aug 18) as she kept her quest for a first Olympic gold medal on track with a commanding performance in Rio.

The 23-year-old’s defeat of Li piled further misery on China, who won a clean sweep of five badminton gold medals at London 2012, but can now only win two.

The Spaniard took the first game 21-14 and the second 21-16 with Sindhu later also requiring just two games to dispatch Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara and set up Friday’s showdown.

“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.

Sindhu edged her Japanese counterpart 21-19 in the first game and the second also looked like it was heading to the wire with the pair locked at 10-10.

However, Sindhu then won an astonishing 11 points in a row to clinch victory and a shot at Olympic glory in her debut Games.

“I didn’t think it was gong to finish in two games. At 19-19 in the first it was anybody’s game. Each and every point was important for me,” she said.

“In the second game it was equal up to 10 points and then I took a huge lead and didn’t take it easy because you never know what might happen,” the 21-year-old added.

India are struggling at Rio, collecting only won bronze medal so far. Sindhu has guaranteed at least a silver but insists she doesn’t feel the weight of expectation from the medal-starved country of 1.3 billion people.

“It’s a great moment for me playing in the final. Just one more match to go and I’m really focused and prepared for it.

“Of course she’s a very tough opponent and it’s not going to be easy tomorrow because it’s an Olympic final and also she’s really playing well,” said the Indian.

Li’s defeat to Marin compounded badminton powerhouse China’s woe at Rio. The shuttlers have struggled in Brazil after a formidable showing four years ago.

The Asian giant missed out on 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 pairs lost in the semi-finals of the mixed doubles, which was was eventually won by Indonesia.

Their final shots at glory come in the men’s singles and men’s doubles.

Double Olympic champion Lin Dan and Chen Long play in separate men’s semi-finals on Friday while Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan will compete in the men’s doubles final later that day.

“Our team is strong and we’ve tried our best to perform well but now it’s really competitive. Every team from around the world is strong and powerful,” said Li following her loss to Marin.