Fresh from winning the Mixed Doubles title yesterday, the first-time Olympian wrested the Women’s Doubles title with partner Tian Qing this afternoon, celebrating her second gold medal in badminton at London 2012. For all the greats who have gone before her, the Chinese champion is the first-ever shuttler to win two golds in one Olympic Games.
Tian/Zhao – the world No. 2 pair – were vying for the top of the podium against the best Japanese pair, Mizuki Fujii/Reika Kakiiwa. While the first game was won comfortably 21-10, the second was hardly easy, with the Japanese threatening to stretch their rivals the distance. In the end, the Chinese won the second game, 25-23, at Wembley Arena.
“I think we have proven for the Chinese team that, considering all that had happened, China can still win a gold medal,” said 25-year-old Zhao (pictured right), alluding to the disqualification of four Women’s Doubles pairs, including the top world and Chinese duo.
“Personally, to win two gold medals is beyond my expectations. The glory is not just mine. I'd like to share the gold medal with the many people behind my success.”
Silver medallist Reika Kakiiwa also thanked the countless people who have contributed to her sterling performance.
“I'm so relieved the match is over! I wish to thank everybody who supported me. In the first game we were really nervous but in the second game we got used to their game and started to really enjoy the match much more.”
Her partner, Miyuki Fujii (both pictured left), disclosed they had been inspired by senior compatriots Miyuki Maeda and Satoko Suetsuna who finished fourth in Women’s Doubles at the last Olympics.
“They showed us in Beijing that Japanese can do well in an event as big as the Olympics. They are our role models,” said the 24-year-old.
It was that kind of inspiration the underdogs needed to fight back after surrendering the first game so meekly. Raising the quality of their resistance, they earned a lead which they were able to maintain almost to the end, at which point it became a tug-of-war of which country would survive the deuce.
The noise in the arena was deafening as fans cheers each time either side saved a match point or a game point. Though Tian/Zhao ultimately came up trumps on their fourth match point, the Japanese did not look discouraged in defeat, knowing they are capable of testing the best.
Meanwhile, Russia's Nina Vislova and Valeria Sorokina's took the bronze 21-9 21-10, in a play-off against Canada's Alex Bruce and Michelle Li (pictured right).
“We went from being eliminated and then were given a second chance. We did not waste the opportunity,” stated an elated Sorokina, referring to the fact that they replaced one of the disqualified pairs.
Despite losing, Bruce felt she and her partner put Canada on the map in the badminton world and urged fans at home to continue supporting Canadian athletes.
The moment of victory for the second seeds Zhao Yunlei and Tian Qing
The London 2012 women's doubles victory ceremony