Rio Olympics 2016: 9 days to go

Olympics: Derek Wong, Lee Chong Wei to clash in first round

Malaysian world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, watched by coach Hendrawan in training, hopes to overcome Lin Dan, his conqueror in the 2008 and 2012 final.
Malaysian world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, watched by coach Hendrawan in training, hopes to overcome Lin Dan, his conqueror in the 2008 and 2012 final. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

RIO DE JANEIRO • Singapore hopeful Derek Wong found himself in Group A along with world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei when the draw for the Olympic badminton tournament was made yesterday.

His other opponent in the men's group stage will be Surinam's Soren Opti.

In the women's singles, Singapore's Liang Xiaoyu was drawn in Group C along with South Korea's Sung Ji Hyun and France's Delphine Lansac.

World badminton will hope a more open field and a European resurgence can inject more excitement at next month's Olympics and help banish memories of London's scandal-plagued tournament where China swept all the titles.

The sport suffered its greatest Olympic humiliation in London where four pairs in the women's doubles were disqualified for deliberately trying to lose pool matches to secure more favourable draws in the knockout phase.

The scandal, which cast a pall over China and two other top Asian teams, prompted a change to the Games format to ensure there can be no repeat of the chaotic scenes at Wembley Arena, where spectators jeered and hurled abuse as players dumped successive shots into the net.

If it is possible to win glory and infamy in one tournament, China managed it as they shrugged off the disqualification of their world champion women's pair Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli to clinch all five golds.

In all, the Chinese won eight of the 15 medals on offer, six more than second-placed Denmark.

At the Riocentro venue, all of China's singles and doubles contenders could easily grab podium places but the days of gold-medal deciders fought exclusively by shuttlers in identical red shirts may be gone for good.

Nations are now limited to two entrants in each event, down from the three in London and previous Games, a move intended to increase competition.

The rule change has coincided with a European resurgence which has raised hopes of a more open tournament. The women's top ranking is now held by a Spaniard in world champion Carolina Marin, while a pair of Danes in Viktor Axelsen and Jan Jorgensen round out the men's top five.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2016, with the headline 'Wong, Lee to clash in first round'. Print Edition | Subscribe