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The Globe and Mail

Canadian badminton team makes most of second chance, reaches Olympic semi-final

Canada's Alex Bruce and Michele Li play against Russia's Valeria Sorokina and Nina Vislova during their women's doubles group play stage Group A badminton match during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Wembley Arena July 31, 2012.


Canadians Alex Bruce and Michele Li won their quarter final match in women's doubles at the scandal-plagued Olympic badminton tournament that saw four teams ejected for tanking matches. The Canadians beat an Australian pair two sets to one at Wembley Arena.

The Canadians move on to the semi-finals and now have a shot at a medal.

The tournament has been marred by scandal after officials disqualified eight players from China, South Korea and Indonesia for trying to lose matches in order to help fellow teammates.

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The Canadians had already been eliminated from the tournament but were re-inserted Wednesday afternoon after the disqualifications, which involved matches played Tuesday night.

Bruce said she and Li only found out late in the afternoon Wednesday that they would be playing again. They had slept in and planned to relax and watch some of the other matches.

"We just tried to stay calm and stay in the hotel and find out what happened," she said after the match. "At 3:30 we got a phone call to get ready to come down and play."

Bruce called the incident involving the disqualified players "shocking" and added that it has tarnished the image of the sport.

"It was really just unfortunate for the sport what happened," she said adding that she has never seen players do that before. "It's upsetting that it happened at the Olympics. Hopefully we can rebound as a sport and prove to the world that badminton deserves to be respected and to be in the Olympics."

Some other teams grumbled about pairs like the Canadians moving on, especially since Bruce and Li did not win a single set in group play. Bruce said she understood the comments, but added: "Right or wrong we're here now. We just tried to really take advantage of an opportunity."

She added that "no, we didn't play our best in pool play. Coming back, what are we supposed to do? You have to take advantage. We got a golden opportunity. This is no longer for us. This is for Canada and North America and bringing badminton to the table."

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Bruce also joined the chorus of players and coaches who said badminton needs to change its tournament system and move toward a knockout-style event similar to tennis.

The Chinese and Koreans tanked their matches in order to avoid meeting other teams from their country in the quarter-finals. For example, one Chinese team was leading pool A and another was second in pool D. Under the quarter-final system, the winner of pool A would play second place in pool D. The winner of that match would move on to the semi-finals. To avoid meeting each other in the quarter-final, the Chinese team leading pool A played poorly in order to finish second. They would then play the winner of pool D instead of the second place Chinese team. The two would eventually meet in the final match, ensuring both won either gold or silver.

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