India claim maiden badminton team gold


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The legendary but on the wane Lee Chong Wei was one of the casualties as a rampaging Indian mixed badminton team claimed its maiden Commonwealth Games gold medal, thrashing three-time defending champions Malaysia in the final here on Monday.

The pair of Satwik Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa claimed the mixed doubles match against Peng Soon Chan and Liu Yong Goh 21-14, 15-21, 21-15 before Kidambi Srikanth stunned three-time Olympic silver medallist Lee 21-17, 21-14 in straight games, his first victory over the Malaysian giant.

India’s Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy celebrates after getting a point against Malaysia’s Goh Liu Ying and Chan Peng Soon during the Mixed-team doubles badminton final at the Commonwealth Games 2018 in Gold Coast, on Monday. PTI Photo

"Perhaps Lee was not at his best but then you can never be too sure against a player like him. You always have to be on your guard, which I was. And I also gave my best. I was not expecting it to be this easy," Srikanth said after one of the biggest wins of his career.

"Pressure was there on him but Srikanth enjoys the pressure and that got him the result," added chief national coach Pullela Gopichand.

The Games debutant men’s doubles pair of Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty lost narrowly to Goh and Wee Kiong Tan 15-21, 20-22 keeping Malaysia afloat for a while. But the in-form Saina Nehwal put paid to their hopes with a 21-11, 19-21, 21-9 win over Sonia Cheah.

"It was exhausting, I actually lost focus during the match but thankfully managed to hold it together and ensure that the gold medal winning shot was mine," said the London Olympics bronze-medallist.

"It is a medal that I will forever cherish, it is very special. Team gold is always way more cherishable," she added.

Earlier, India had won the mixed team silver and bronze respectively in the 2010 and 2006 editions of the Commonwealth Games.

Malaysian legend Chong Wei walked out to a thunderous applause to face Srikanth but it wasn’t meant to be his day despite the arena resonating with the chants of his name.

The Indian, who has never beaten Lee on the circuit, was neck-and-neck with his rival before taking a 10-8 lead in the opening game.

The ever-so-elegant Lee was surprisingly off colour. As graceful as his on-court movement was, the strokes lacked accuracy as he took the lemon break trailing 8-11.

The gap widened as the game progressed and it was quite a dampener for the sizeable Malaysian fans to watch their icon struggle.

Sindhu fit: Gopi

Forced out of the gold medal winning mixed team campaign due to an ankle injury, top shuttler P V Sindhu has recovered to be fit for the singles event, Gopichand said.

"She is fine now and will compete in the singles competition," Gopichand said when asked about Sindhu’s fitness status.

"She had an ankle injury, which was not major but we did not want to risk her when Saina was giving us the results we wanted. Now she has recovered and will be there from April 11," he added.

Sindhu, who was to captain the side, had sustained the injury during a practice session in Hyderabad before arriving here for Games.

She was, however, present on the sidelines during all the matches India played, vociferously cheering the team.

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