The sport of badminton has always generally been a quiet one. It has its own superstars who go about their job silently, only in the news during tournaments and not really acquiring god-like status outside the few badminton fanatic countries. Unlike football, tennis or even cricket the controversies in badminton are far and few.
But with the steady growth of badminton, the world’s fastest racquet sport has a huge influx of players now. The stakes are high and as expected a few controversies have cropped up. Essentially Sports brings you the 5 biggest of these controversial incidents that shook the badminton fraternity.
5) Super Dan’s on court out-burst
Two time Olympic gold medallist Lin Dan always known for a short temper, created controversy in the final of the 2008 Korean Open when he tried to physically attack the South Korean coach Li Mao. The final which was won by Lee 4-21,23-21,25-23 was marred by doubtful line calls. After one such decision at a crucial juncture in the match, Lin Dan approached the chair umpire to complain and Li Mao said something the Chinese superstar didn’t approve. This lead to a shouting match between Zhong Bo,Lin’s coach and Li Mao. Lin Dan then intervened and things almost got ugly before officials jumped in to separate them.
Both parties minced no words after the final in accusing the other of behaving rudely and Lin Dan refused to apologize. With the 5 time World Champion clearly being provoked, the BWF decided not to take any further action other than the yellow card he received during the match.
4) Lee Chong Wei and Doping
Lee Chong Wei is badminton’s good boy. He is calm on and off court, free of controversies, measured with his words and displays all the qualities that make him loveable. So when Malaysia’s favourite son tested positive for a banned substance, it shocked the world. Lee had tested positive for anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone during the 2014 World Championships in which he finished runner up. A 3 member panel was formed to look into the panel and he could have faced a 2 year ban which might have all but ended his career.
But in April 2015 the panel ruled that since dexamethasone was not a performance enhancing drug and that Lee had been negligent but had no intention to cheat, an 8 month ban would suffice. Lee had already stopped playing voluntarily since the results of the test and hence the ban was backdated, meaning he could compete in tournaments and try for qualification to Rio 2016.
The absence had affected Lee Chong Wei’s ranking and he dropped to 180 in the world. Since then Lee has won two Grand Prix Gold tournaments to improve his ranking to 65.
3) Chinese “walkovers”
China is badminton’s powerhouse. The no.of titles that Chinese players have won and the their dominance in team events proves this point. For any tournament the Chinese send the strongest contingent, even in terms of numbers. But for a very long time, the strategy involved in making sure more players from the country qualify for Olympics and World Championships has been questioned. The Chinese have been accused of pulling out of matches involving their compatriots citing injury and fatigue.
Calculations have shown that over 20% of matches between Chinese are not completed while the figure drops to 0.74% against other opponents. More recently at the Badminton Asia Championships Chen Long gave a walkover to Tian Houwei in the semi-finals, allowing him to gather valuable ranking points for the World Championships in August. In the same event, 2nd seeds Luo Ying and Luo Yo retired in the middle of the semi-final to let their compatriots contest the final.
Though these numbers are questionable with the number of Chinese players competing at the highest level, most international players have raised questions over the convenient timing of these “injuries”. After former coach Li Yongbo admitted he asked Zhou Mi to threw her 2004 Athens semi-final against Zhang Ning, any retirement from the nation comes under scrutiny.
2) World Championships Air-Con(troversy)
The 2013 World Championships ended on a saddening note with Lee Chong Wei retiring due to cramps at the fag end of the men’s singles final against Lin Dan. This gave Lin Dan his 5th World Championship title. More drama was to follow though, with Lee Chong Wei’s coach blaming the air-conditioning for him cramping up, claiming that the Malaysian was struggling to breathe at one point. This became a huge issue as the Championships were held in Guangzhou, China, Lin’s home country. Television footage clearly showed spectators fanning themselves and the commentator also saying that the air-conditioning was switched off during the second game. The change in drift might have helped Lin Dan, though the rise in temperature would have equally affected both players.
The organisers dismissed claims of foul-play, saying the air-conditioning wasn’t switched off at all and the rise in temperature was because of the increase in number of spectators.
The tournament itself had begun on a controversial note with many players questioning a “wildcard” entry to Lin Dan who had taken an 8 month break and had dropped out of the top 100. All in all, the 2013 Championships left a bad taste in the mouth.
1)Throwing matches at the Olympics
The 2012 Olympics became notorious for the incident involving 8 female badminton trying to “throw” their matches for easier quarter-final draws. The players from China, South Korea( 2 pairs) and Indonesia were accused of playing to lose so they could face less tough opponents in the knockout phase. All 4 pairs had already qualified for the quarter-finals. The players repeatedly served into the net and hit the shuttle wide to gift points to their opponents. With the crowed booing them, the tournament official was called in who warned the pairs.
After the end of day’s play, the Badminton World Federation(BWF) decided to disqualify the player for “Not giving their best to win a match”. This clearly violated the Olympic’s principles and the pairs drew flak from around the world. Though the players claimed they were doing it only to stay fresh for the next round, the ruling body decided to go ahead with the decision.
A few people did come to the defence of the pairs, saying it was a strategy that would have helped them to eventually win gold. The booting out did have adverse effects on the players, with Yu Yang a Chinese player announcing her retirement almost immediately at the age of 26.
Though controversies have occurred in badminton, fans can still be grateful that evils like match-fixing and doping have not infiltrated the sport as much as its famed counterparts. The shuttle fraternity would hope it stays this way.
A sports buff, there is nothing that gives him more pleasure than putting words to the emotions felt on the field. Give him a topic and you'll end talking about it all through the night, the passion unrelenting. Friends, Food and Fun are vital. Words are essential. Sports is Life.