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India makes history, claims maiden badminton mixed team gold at CWG

PTI Gold Coast | Updated on April 11, 2018 Published on April 09, 2018

Indian badminton players hold tricolour as they celebrate India's win in mixed-team badminton event final at Commonwealth Games 2018 in Gold Coast.   -  REUTERS

The legendary but on the wane Lee Chong Wei was one of the casualties as a rampaging Indian mixed badminton team claimed its maiden Commonwealth Games gold medal, thrashing three-time defending champions Malaysia in the final here today.

The pair of Satwik Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa claimed the mixed doubles match against Peng Soon Chan and Liu Yong Goh 21-14 15-21 21-15, before Kidambi Srikanth stunned three-time Olympic silver medallist Lee 21-17 21-14 in straight games, his first victory over the Malaysian giant.

"Perhaps Lee was not at his best but then you can never be too sure against a player like him. You always have to be on your guard, which I was. And I also gave my best. I was not expecting it to be this easy," Srikanth told PTI after one of the biggest wins of his career. "Pressure was there on him but Srikanth enjoys pressure and that got him the result," added chief national coach Pullela Gopichand.

The Games debutant men’s doubles pair of Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty lost to Goh and Wee Kiong Tan 15–21, 20–22 to keep Malaysia afloat for a while. But the in-form Saina Nehwal put paid to the Malaysian hopes with a 21–11, 19–21, 21–9 win over Soniia Cheah in the women’s singles match.

"It was exhausting, I actually lost focus during the match but thankfully managed to hold it together and ensure that the gold medal winning shot was mine," said the London Olympics bronze-medallist. "It is a medal that I will forever cherish, it is very special. Team gold is always way more cherishable," she added.

Mixed doubles pair of Ashwini and Rankireddy opened the proceedings for India and raced to a quick 8-4 lead. The Malaysians narrowed it to 7-9 in no time showing better adeptness in attacking the net. But the Indians managed to stay ahead at 11-7 owing to their rivals' poor shot placement from the baseline. Within no time, the Indians were 14-9 ahead, taking it to 17-11 eventually. While Satwik provided most of the brute force from the baseline, Ashwini's control stood out as they claimed the first game 21-14.

Malaysian legend Lee Chong Wei then walked out to a thunderous applause to face Srikanth next but it wasn't meant to be his day despite the arena resonating with the chants of his name. The Indian, who has never beaten Lee on the circuit, was neck-and-neck with his rival before taking a 10-8 lead in the opening game.

The ever-so-elegant Lee was surprisingly off colour. As graceful as his on-court movement was, the strokes lacked accuracy as he took the lemon break trailing 8-11. The gap widened as the game progressed and it was quite a dampener for the sizeable Malaysian fans to watch their icon struggle.

Later, Saina was expected to close it quickly for Team India but Cheah took advantage of her jaded state to put up a massive fight. Saina struggled to reach out for the shuttle quite a few times. It has been a punishing last four days for Saina as she played all the women's singles matches during the campaign as P V Sindhu was nursing an ankle niggle. Flashing a relieved smile after the win, Saina said she would just relax tomorrow. "I don't think anybody in the team is going to sleep tonight. May be I will just relax tomorrow and then think about the singles," the champion shuttler said referring to the singles competition which starts on April 11.

Earlier, India has previously won the silver and bronze in the mixed team category in 2010 and 2006 editions of the Commonwealth Games. This is the first time the nation has won a gold in this event.

 

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Published on April 09, 2018
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