Sublime Chinese duo take gold in badminton mixed doubles in wake of fixing scandal which saw compatriots disqualified
17:50 GMT, 3 August 2012
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China made badminton headlines for the right reasons as Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei produced a world-class performance to claim Olympic gold at Wembley Arena.
The top seeds were far too strong for their compatriots and second seeds Xu Chen and Ma Jin as they powered to what could prove the first of five golds in the sport for the Asian powerhouse.
Their 21-11 21-17 victory showed the best of Chinese badminton two days after one of their mixed doubles pairs was expelled from the London 2012 competition in a match-fixing row.
Winners: Gold medalists Zhang Nan (left) and Zhao Yunlei (right) put on a class performance at Wembley
The pair put on a remarkable display and were overjoyed to have taken yet another gold for the Chinese
It was a result which rarely seemed in doubt as the world champions Zhang and Zhao got off to a superb start, racing into a 12-5 lead.
Zhao, despite apparent trouble from a knee injury, rarely relinquished control at the net while Zhang set up plenty of winners.
Their opponents could not impose themselves and were frequently forced into errors.
Zhang and Zhao led 8-0 in the second game and only had a brief wobble two points from victory as Xu and Ma won four in succession.
Zhao played down the significance of their victory in light of this week's scandal.
She said: 'Everybody is doing their best to achieve their best performances.
'I have been training very hard in preparation for this gold medal and this is just the start of our careers.'
The pair restored some credibility to Chinese badminton after their compatriots had been kicked out of the Games for deliberately trying to lose
The bronze medal was won earlier in the day by Danish pair Joachim Fischer and Christinna Pedersen, who beat Indonesia's Tonowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir.
Fourth seeds Fischer and Pedersen earned some consolation after their semi-final defeat to Zhang and Zhao by outplaying third seeds Ahmad and Natsir to win 21-12 21-12.
Fischer, who smashed a racket after losing out on a place in the gold medal match, celebrated exuberantly and gave away his racket and shirt.
The result meant that for the first time in Olympic history Indonesia had failed to pick up a badminton medal. At all Games since the sport was introduced in 1992, the country had won at least one gold.
Ahmad said: “There has been too much pressure on from home and from the media.
'I failed to cope with the expectation and under-performed.'
The men's singles final on Sunday will be a repeat of the Beijing showpiece of four years ago between all-time greats and arch-rivals Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan.
Defending champion Lin had little trouble seeing off South Korea's Lee Hyun-il.
The world number two won 11 of the first 12 points of the match and 12 of the last 14 as he powered past the ineffective seventh seed to win 21-12 21-10.
Malaysia's top seed Lee was made to work much harder by third seed Chen Long and looked more impressive for it as he won 21-13 21-14.
Wang Xiaoli (left) and Yang Yu were disqualified from the Games and were unable to compete for the medal positions
The women were top seeds and were likely to rack up another medal for the Chinese
Despite his superb display, Lee, who came into the tournament with doubts over his fitness after an ankle injury, said: 'I didn't expect to win because my preparation has only been 50 per cent.
'I said to myself, “I have nothing to lose,” but when I saw it was 11-4 in the first game I realised I had to win this match and that's why I played more confidently.'
Lee and Lin produced a stunning spectacle when they met in the final of the World Championships at the same venue last year.
Lin survived match point to win and will again be favourite despite Lee's long-established status at the top of the world rankings.
The Malaysian, a perennial runner-up to Lin, will also carry the pressure of bidding to win his country's first Olympic gold in any sport.
The first women's semi-final proved a disappointing spectacle as top seed Wang Yihan made easy work of India's fourth seed Saina Newhal, winning 21-13 21-13 in 42 minutes.
Wang was joined in the final by fellow Chinese Li Xuerui, who beat another compatriot in Wang Xin.
Third seed Li, a late selection by China for the tournament, continued her impressive progress with a 22-20 21-18 success over the second seed.
China are top of the medals table, with the USA in second place