HOPE alone doesn’t win Olympic gold. Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong found that out as they crashed and burned in their attempt to make the badminton men’s doubles final at the Wembley Arena.
The Malaysian pair were cruelly exposed by China’s world champions Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng 21-9, 21-19 in just 34 minutes in the semi-finals and will now battle for the bronze medal today.
Malaysia’s best haul in the Olympics was the silver and bronze achieved in Atlanta 1996 through the doubles pair of Cheah Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock and Rashid Sidek in the singles, respectively.
Here in London, the silver is already assured with Lee Chong Wei’s entry into the men’s singles final, although he will be gunning for the nation’s first ever gold medal.
A bronze from Kien Keat and Boon Heong would at least match the Atlanta high but they face their old South Korean rivals Chung Jae-sung and Lee Yong-dae in the playoff.
The Koreans were stunned by Denmark’s Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen 17-21, 21-18, 22-20 in their semi-final.
Cai Yun and Haifeng enjoyed their easiest win in more than two years over the Malaysian pair they had lost to in the All-England finals of 2007 and 2011.
Kien Keat and Boon Heong were well and truly beaten. Even the fightback in the second game could not hide the fact that they were outclassed – clear indication that their strained partnership is no longer viable.
The first game took just 13 minutes. The Malaysians did not even know what hit them before they were changing sides for the second game.
The Malaysians then matched Cai Yun and Haifeng point for point before trailing 18-13. They managed to catch up as the China pair relaxed their grip, catching up 18-18 and 19-19. But then they easily gave away the two points to lose 21-19.
Doubles coach Tan Kim Her said the pair did not follow the game plan and changed their tactics.
“All along we have been playing an attacking game but they got overly defensive today. I had told them to open up after a serve and yet they were bunched together and this gave the Chinese duo the chance to attack them,” he said.
Kien Keat agreed that they had made too many errors and did not play their normal game.
“The first was over before we knew it. We were just unable to cope,” said Kien Keat.
“We have to put this behind us and look at winning the bronze medal. As for the future, let’s talk about it after the Olympics as there are just too many things to consider.”
Cai Yun and Haifeng will be out to make history today as no pair from China have ever won the men’s doubles gold since badminton was introduced at Barcelona 1992.
“It would mean so much to us to win this time,” Haifeng said.
Top-ranked Jae-sung and Yong-dae were expected to beat Boe and Mogensen, whom they had beaten five out of six times in the last year, and continue badminton’s best rivalry into the final. The South Koreans and Cai Yun and Haifeng have met in 11 finals.
But the Danes wouldn’t give up, and came from a game down to force a third. They carried the momentum into the decider, losing the lead only twice.
They were first to match point but it was saved by Yong-dae, a teenage mixed doubles gold medallist in Beijing. So the Danes got a second one and after a fast flurry of drives, Mogensen hit a lift to the deep right corner and Yong-dae left the shuttlecock, thinking it was going out. But it fell in and they will be playing for gold.