Asian Games: India, Japan Net Firsts, China Confirm One Gold

Asian Games: India, Japan Net Firsts, China Confirm One Gold

The Asian Games will have an Indian men’s pair and Japanese mixed pair in a gold medal match for the first time ever courtesy of the efforts of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty and Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino.

Since mixed doubles was added in 1966, four years after badminton’s competitive Asian Games debut, Japan have only the bronze Ippei Kojima/Etsuko Takenaka took at Bangkok 1970 to show.

Watanabe/Higashino were bent on fixing that, coming back to conquer Feng Yan Zhe/Huang Dong Ping after losing the first game 21-11 in just 19 minutes. The world No.2s’ reward for taking the second and third games 22-20 21-17 is a final against another Chinese pair – favourites Zheng Si Wei/Huang Ya Qiong.

“We want to make history. I want us to give our best and enjoy the final,” said Watanabe, who lost the quarterfinal to Dong Ping and Wang Yi Lyu five years ago.

Higashino and Watanabe at the end of their match.

Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty meanwhile, were surprisingly dominant in their duel against 2022 world champions Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik. The reigning Asian champions got the job done in 46 minutes, winning 21-17 21-12. The catalyst was an eight-point run in the opener, which took them from 10-9 down to 17-10 ahead. The second game was one-sided, the Indians racing to an 11-3 lead to quell any hopes their Malaysian opponents had of salvaging the match.

“We stuck to our gameplan from the word go. Once we took the lead we never let them come back,” said Shetty.

Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty take on the surprise package of the Hangzhou 2022 – Koreans Choi Sol Gyu/Kim Won Ho, who sidestepped Olympic champions Lee Yang/Wang Chi-Lin 21-12 21-10. India’s best finish in men’s doubles was also a solitary bronze won by Leroy D’Sa/Pradeep Gandhe in New Delhi in 1982.

Meanwhile, China secured the men’s singles gold after Li Shi Feng and Shi Yu Qi both won their semifinals. Li was the first to advance, beating a tired H.S. Prannoy 21-16 21-9 before Shi joined the party following a 21-5 21-15 result against Kodai Naraoka.

In women’s singles, the unstoppable An Se Young became the first Korean since Bang Soo Hyun in 1994 to qualify for the final. The world No.1 defeated He Bing Jiao 21-10 21-13 and will fight Chen Yu Fei for gold at Binjiang Gymnasium tomorrow.