Eight badminton players have been disqualified from the women’s doubles competition at the London Olympic Games for deliberately playing poorly in Tuesday’s matches.
Two pairs from South Korea, and one each from Indonesia and China, including World Champions and top seeds Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli from China, were accused of “not using best efforts” in an attempt to manipulate the draw for the knockout stage.
In the women’s doubles match at Wembley Arena on Tuesday night, China’s Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli and South Koreans Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na performed poorly, deliberately serving into the net and hitting shots out of bound.
Match referee Thorsten Berg appeared on court at one point to warn players that they faced punishment if they didn’t compete properly. Fans jeered and booed throughout the match to show their disappointment.
Both pairs knew the winners would face China’s Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei. By losing to the Korean pair, Yu and Wang would only meet their Chinese teammates if both pairs make it to the final.
A later match between the South Korean pair of Ha Jung-Eun and Kim Min-Jung and the Indonesian pair Meiliana Juahari and Greysia Polii was played out in a similar manner, where both pairs played badly, clearly playing to lose.
China’s Olympic sports delegation has begun an investigation into the matches, state media reported. The delegation expressed its support for the Badminton World Federation decision to disqualify Yu and Wang, and issued a statement in which it condemned the un-sportsman like behaviors exhibited by Yu and Wang in Tuesday’s competition.
This is not the first time the Chinese badminton team has been accused of trying to manipulate the system to its advantage. In April this year, Lin Dan, China’s top ranked player, withdrew from the semi-final at the Badminton Asia Championships, so that his teammate Chen Jin, could advance into the final.
By helping Chen improve his world ranking, the Chinese badminton team could ensure that it would gain three spots for the men’s single event at the London Olympics.
In badminton and table tennis, most Chinese players are accustomed to letting their coaches decide how to play each match, including whether to let their teammates win to maximize medal count for China in international competitions.
Chinese athletes usually do not go against their coaches’ directives, and in this case, both Yu and Wang are also victims of the Chinese tradition of placing a team’s interests over those of the individual players.