The best headline I saw for this story was Slate's Shuttlecock and Bull. Catchy headline aside, why were eight female badminton players deliberately trying to lose?
If you haven't been following, two South Korean women's doubles teams, as well as a badminton duo from Indonesia, were disqualified from the Olympics along with world doubles champions from China for alleged match fixing. The South Korean and Indonesian players have appealed the decision.
Credit Image: © Tang Shi/Xinhua/ZUMAPRESS.com
A disciplinary commitee of the Badminton World Federation on Wednesday found all eight athletes guilty of "not using one's best efforts to win a match" and "conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport." The federation ruled the women deliberately fixed first-round matches in order to secure an easier opponent in the quarterfinal knockout rounds.
Like many Olympic sports, badminton has a preliminary round that’s used to determine seeding and a knockout round that decides who wins gold, silver, or bronze. As the AP explains, “The round-robin format can allow results to be manipulated to earn an easier matchup in the knockout round.”
The federation investigated allegations that the Chinese team, which already had qualified for the knockout rounds, deliberately lost their match to avoid meeting their No. 2-seeded Chinese teammates until the final. The Korean players allegedly copied the Chinese women's tactics in the second match against Indonesia.
Why would any Olympian intentionally try to throw a match? Slate does a great job of breaking down the strategy but basically it appears the Chinese wanted to set themselves up for gold and silver medals rather than have one team eliminated in the knockout round Some say it was gamesmanship, ensuring they would face a weaker opponent in the next round while others counter it was cheating. While the eight women may have only broken the spirit of the rules, that, according to officials, was enough.
Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics, said: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
Apparently, the players weren't familiar with de Coubertin's philosophy. The scandal is a humiliating moment for the sport and it puts a tarnish on the countries that constitute its elite. Since 1992, Asian nations have dominated international badminton competitions, capturing 69 of 76 medals. China has won 30 of those medals.
For those that think badminton is for wimps, might be time to look again. Have you been following the sport at all? Will you now?
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