GUANGZHOU, China (AFP) — A minute’s silence was held at the Sudirman Cup Tuesday in remembrance of the victims of last year’s earthquake in China, before the hosts marked the occasion with a badminton master class.
China’s 5-0 mauling of Japan’s inexperienced side in the mixed team championships here was the perfect way to pay respect to the 87,000 dead or missing from the Sichuan quake one year ago.
In the other elite tie of the evening, South Korea beat Denmark to confirm that, along with Indonesia, they have what it takes to at least make China work hard for what would be their seventh Sudirman Cup triumph.
China’s head coach Li Yongbo said afterwards it was important to separate sport from last year’s devastation and that his players needed no added incentive to win for their country.
"Before the match we had a brief ceremony. I think this is what we need to do more often. Of course, the Chinese badminton team has given a lot of help to the victims, but we need a long-term effort in this," Li said.
"We did what we could, but this has nothing to do with the match or today’s performance," he added, proclaiming himself "very satisfied" with the victory.
With the tournament going to form so far, it is difficult to see anyone else but holders China lifting the trophy Sunday at the Guangzhou Gymnasium, especially with the vocal home support firmly behind them.
World number three and Chinese idol Lin Dan was in typically extravagant form in easily beating Sho Sasaki, at one point returning a shot while he had both knees planted on the floor.
South Korea, driven by their doubles teams, made it two wins out of two in beating Denmark 4-1 to confirm their status as one of the prime threats to China’s domination of the biennial tournament.
Denmark’s chief coach Finn Traerup-Hansen admitted his side badly missed women’s world number one Tine Rasmussen, who was left at home with injury.
"We are trying not to make too much of it," he said of not having Rasmussen.
He was also concerned about his other star shuttler, world men’s number two Peter Gade, who was taken to hospital after winning Denmark’s only match of the evening complaining of a headache.
"They are doing some investigations and I will go to see him, but the first information we have is that it’s a normal migraine," Traerup-Hansen said.
Earlier Tuesday, Thailand and Taiwan each made it two wins out of two to maintain their hopes of promotion to the elite group of the badminton tournament.
Taiwan, relishing the support of the crowd, smashed France 4-1, while Thailand won the fifth and final rubber to squeeze through 3-2 winners over Germany.
The teams go head to head in group 2A on Wednesday.
In the third tier of competition, India justified their pre-tournament tag as strong favourites to gain promotion with a 5-0 hammering of Ukraine.