India’s badminton team created history on Monday as they claimed their first gold medal in mixed-team event, defeating Malaysia 3-1 in final. Saina Nehwal led a long, intense battle against Soniia Cheah to give India the top position.
India’s gold-medal campaign started with the pair of Ashwini Ponnappa-Satwik Rankireddy taking down Peng Soon Chan and Liu Yong Goh in the mixed-doubles category. Ashwini-Satwik gave India 1-0 lead and an early motivation after beating Malaysia 21-14, 15-21, 21-15.
Photos: India’s medal winners so far
Kidambi Srikanth came next to gift India another win as he defeated Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei 21-17, 21-14 in front of a very energetic crowd that came in large numbers to support India. “Perhaps Lee was not at his best but then you can never be too sure against a player like him. You always have to be on your guard, which I was. And I also gave my best. I was not expecting it to be this easy,” Srikanth was quoted by PTI as saying.
Debutant pair of Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty lost to Goh and Wee Kiong Tan 15-21 20-22 in men’s doubles to give Malaysia some hope and taking the score to 2-1.
Saina then took the court for the final and the most difficult match of the final as Cheah put the Indian shuttler to test in a three-game match intense match that even required a medical time-out. Saina was on fire in the first game as she earned 12 points in a row to win 21-11.
However, Cheah found her fighting spirit back as she took the second game by storm. Saina, however, kept it level for most of the game, eventually going down 21-19 to drag the match into decider.
The decider was an even intense affair as long rallies led to an equal game till mid-game break. The Olympic bronze medallist took a good lead after the break to win the decider as well as the game 21-9.
Saina said after the match, “It was exhausting, I actually lost focus during the match but thankfully managed to hold it together and ensure that the gold medal winning shot was mine. It is a medal that I will forever cherish, it is very special. Team gold is always way more cherishable.”
“I don’t think anybody in the team is going to sleep tonight. Maybe I will just relax tomorrow and then think about the singles,” added Saina.
That meant that women’s doubles pair of Sikki Reddy and Ashwini did not need to play the last clash as India already had 3-1 lead to win the final match.