CWG 2018: India badminton team join gold rush at Gold Coast

The DJ at the Carrara Sports Complex must have a wicked sense of humour. After Saina Nehwal led India to a first-ever gold medal in the mixed team event of the Commonwealth Games, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) rushed to the podium for a photo-op. Almost on cue, a cheesy Bollywood song on paisa and tamasha blared through the speakers.
It might have been entirely coincidental. But in a fortnight where Saina has kicked up a storm over her father initially being denied access to the Athletes Village though she had funded the trip, the irony of the situation could not be missed.
Eventually, it was Saina who had the last laugh. The world No.12, who’d threatened to pull out of the Commonwealth Games last Tuesday, anchored India to a famous 3-1 win over Malaysia, who had won the last three mixed team gold medals.
Saina admittedly zoned out in the second game, which gave India a few anxious moments but she regained composure to beat Soniia Cheah, ranked 17 places below her, 21-11, 19-21, 21-9 in the fourth rubber.
“Team events are complex in nature so it is always good to win a medal. I was a part of the team when we won our first-ever bronze (2006) and silver (2010) medals. So it feels special to be in a team that has won the country’s first gold medal in this event, especially by beating Malaysia,” Saina said.
India dropped just two matches en route to winning the gold medal. They spanked Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Scotland 5-0 in the group stage before brushing aside Mauritius 3-0 in the quarterfinals and defeating last edition’s bronze medalists Singapore 3-1 in the semifinal on Sunday to set-up a gold medal match with their South East Asian rivals.
Malaysia have had an air of invincibility around them. They have, for a couple of decades, had the depth and the quality in their squad to go unchallenged in the team events. The thousands who had crammed into this match box-shaped arena to watch Lee Chong Wei, Malaysia’s blonde-streaked superstar, and the deadly doubles combination of Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong expected a close fight. But the Malaysians, known for their speed and trickery, were beaten at their own game, and in such authoritative fashion.
While Saina applied the finishing touches to a memorable win, Kidambi Srikanth laid the foundation for it. Srikanth’s was perhaps the most crucial match of all. Ashwini Ponappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddi had eked out a 21-14, 15-21, 21-15 win over Chan Peng Soon and Liu Ying Goh in the mixed doubles to put India ahead in the best-of-five tie.
Srikanth was up next against Chong Wei. In the four times they had met before, Srikanth had not even managed to win a game against the Malaysian legend. Tonight, he made the former world No.1 look like a novice. Srikanth’s whipped cross-courts and whistling smashes rattled Chong Wei, who surrendered so meekly that even Srikanth was surprised.