Aside from domination, what is Chinese badminton best known for? Sadly, the answer is poor sportsmanship—specifically, throwing and no-showing matches, thereby resting its top players and manipulating results to allow its second-tier players to qualify and/or secure favorable seeds for the most important tournaments.
The latest example took place last weekend at the Li-Ning Singapore Open, where China’s Lin Dan, aka “Super Dan,” withdrew from the final citing a stomach virus. What good fortune for China’s badminton delegation — that stomach virus handed Chen Jin the win by forfeit and his first-place finish will improve his seed for the London 2012 Olympics. Olympic gold medalist Lin was booed by Singapore Indoor Stadium’s crowd of more than 7,000, who didn’t get the show they paid for.
It’s not doing any good for China’s reputation in the sports world, which already has the taint of poor sportsmanship from gymasts and footballers who are younger than they say they are, and basketball players who are older. It’s not good for badminton, which may never be taken seriously as a sport in the United States, and is losing ground to basketball and football in China. And it can’t be good for Li-Ning, the sponsor of the Singapore Open, the Chinese team, and of Lin himself.
The Chinese team are hearing it from the badminton press, who are skeptical that Lin was sick, although they concede that the decision to withdraw probably did not rest with him, but with a coach or team leader. BadZine.com editor-in-chief Raphael Sachetat wrote an insightful editorial on the topic earlier this week (No show: is that promotion?), which includes some great detail and background information on the situation. And something else Sachetat wrote more than two years ago seems to still be relevant in the badminton world: “If only Chinese badminton benefits from its own growth, the sport might simply be taken out of the Olympic program someday. Sponsors will then vanish and the little money coming in will be gone for a while. That’s what is called shooting oneself in the foot…” (China out of SS finals: shooting itself in the foot).
While China’s “strategy” is an openly criticized secret, it doesn’t seem to draw the attention that matters most — that of the Badminton World Federation, which seem unable or unwilling to investigate the behavior for the standard-bearers of its sport.
Tags: badminton, Lin Dan