China’s Li Xuerui, Wang Yihan and India’s Saina Nehwal stood side by side on the podium to accept their medals in the women’s badminton singles on Sunday but are unlikely to receive any for sportsmanship after making some graceless comments.
Nehwal took great pride in winning the bronze, the first badminton medal for India, after being the only non-Chinese woman in the last four.
She won her match by default when her second-seeded opponent Wang Xin collapsed with a knee injury when leading the match 21-18 1-0. Wang left the court hobbling in obvious pain and the team doctor’s prognosis was ligament damage.
The fourth seed Nehwal insisted she would have won the bronze anyway and that her opponent was tiring.
“It’s sad, of course, but I was very confident that in the second game I could pull it off. Maybe she said ‘Maybe I don’t want to play’,” she said.
The win was still big news for India and a clutch of Indian reporters attended winner Li and runner-up Wang Yihan’s press conference to ask their opinion of Nehwal as a player.
“I don’t have any comment,” silver medalist Wang said, bluntly enough to make Chinese reporters in the room wince. “Wang (Xin) was definitely going to win.
“It’s because she got injured that (Nehwal) won ... so there’s nothing to say about that.”
Li was more charitable saying Nehwal should be “congratulated” but agreed with her team mate that she was on track to lose.
“If Wang Xin played to the end, I believe the bronze medal would have belonged to the Chinese team,” she said
The idea of sportsmanship at the badminton tournament has been tested already with the expulsion of four women’s doubles pairs who deliberately played to lose their matches to secure a more preferable position in the knockout rounds.