Badminton: China coach Li calls for calm after Rio blow

Sun Aug 21, 2016 6:31pm EDT
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By Ian Ransom

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - China's failure to defend three of its badminton titles at the Rio Games was a shock for a nation used to dominating the Olympic courts but head coach Li Yongbo called for calm amid a storm of criticism.

Four years after winning all five titles at London, China grabbed two gold medals and a bronze to top the medals table, but it was their lowest haul at an Olympics for 20 years.

With teams restricted to two entrants in the singles, down from three at London and previous Games, the badminton superpower had fewer chances to win medals.

However, the lack of a Chinese woman on the podium for both the singles and doubles was a major setback for a team that had built long dynasties in both events.

Li has been the face of Chinese badminton for over a decade and survived a number of controversies by delivering unprecedented results at global and Olympic tournaments.

But the 53-year-old has been lambasted online over the team's performance in Rio, with Chinese social media users demanding his resignation.

China will lose at least two of its Olympic gold medalists to retirement, with doubles veteran Fu Haifeng and twice singles champion Lin Dan playing their last Games.

Zhao Yunlei, who won mixed doubles gold at London and took bronze in Rio, is also tipped to quit before Tokyo in 2020.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Badminton - Men's Singles - Victory Ceremony - Riocentro - Pavilion 4 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 20/08/2016. Gold medallist Chen Long (CHN) of China poses with his coach Li Yongbo. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo