Badminton Life



Smith Looking Good for Final Olympic Spot

Qualification for the Olympics is now reaching a crucial stage and one badminton player who has done his chances of being present in Beijing no harm is Andrew Smith who has capitalised on close rival Richard Vaughan's withdrawal from the Yonex Sunrise Indian Open in Hyderabad by managing to clock up a couple of victories and more importantly, ranking points in the race to represent in Beijing.

The latest World Rankings sees Smith as the 35th best player in the world whereas Richard Vaughan is ranked in just behind at number 41. Smiths good fortune started when he received a walkover in the first round due to his scheduled opponent, Anup Sridhar of India having to withdraw from the match due to an injury.

Smith then proceeded to defeat Ali Shahhosseini of Iran by a 21-14, 21-15 margin which was as comfortable as the score line suggests. This set up a last 16 match for Smith against China's Chong Wei Feng who defeated his fellow countryman Chen Jin in an epic match, which was eventually settled by a score of 25-23, 12-21, and 21-16.

The match between Smith and Wei Feng was another tense thriller but eventually Smith prevailed and a 21-19 victory in the third and final set allowed the Englishman to look forward to a quarter-final tie against Anand Pawar from India.

Even before this tournament, Smith held a 2,000 point lead over Vaughan so the two triumphs would have done his Olympic qualification chances no harm at all and with time and events running out before the deadline; Smith has placed himself into a promising position.

After the Hyderabad tournament there will only be the European Championships in mid April and the KLRC Atwater International shortly afterwards for Vaughan to claw back and overhaul the 2,000 point deficit if he wants to claim the final place on the Great British Men's Single team for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Smith may have been the only English singles player taking part in this tournament but the Doubles teams had a strong representation but were unable to find the success that Smith had shown. The new English duo of Robert Blair and Richard Eidestedt were defeated in the first round by the second seeds of the tournament Candra Wijaya and Tony Gunawan by a score of 21-10, 21-9.

A defeat of this comprehensive a score line highlighted the gulf in class between both sides and although the duo of Blair and Eldestedt will need to be given time to find their feet as a pairing, they will need to improve very quickly if they want to play regularly at tournaments.

An early exit also befell Andrew Ellis and Chris Langridge who were drawn against the tournament top seeds Jung Jae Sung and Loe Yong Dae who triumphed 21-19, 21-11. At least the first set of this tie showed the GB team putting up some fight.

A dismal showing all round for all the Doubles teams was evident with only Robert Blair and Imogen Bankier managing to progress beyond the first round of the Mixed Doubles but were beaten by Hendra Kurniawan Saputra and Liu Yujia, who had already defeated Chris Langridge and Sarah Bok in the opening round.












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