By Dave Thompson
LONDON (Reuters) – China's crown at the All England championships in Birmingham slipped at the weekend when they ended with just two of the five titles, their most modest showing since 2002.
Alarm bells may be ringing with the Olympics on home territory in Beijing five months away.
World number four Chen Jin won the men's singles, upsetting injured Lin Dan 22-20 25-23 and the evergreen Gao Ling took the mixed doubles with Zheng Bo, an 11th All England title for Gao.
But the women's singles, a near monopoly for China since 1997, went to world number nine Tine Rasmussen of Denmark who battled past Chinese number three seed Lu Lan 21-11 18-21 22-20.
South Korean pairs mopped up the men's and women's doubles, which means the other Asian powerhouses of Indonesia and Malaysia left the tournament empty-handed.
In China, concern may be most acute in the women's singles where titleholder Xie Xingfang, Olympic gold medallist Zhang Ning and world champion Zhu Lin all lost in the first two days.
The defeat of Zhu by Rasmussen could be the most significant, the tall Dane looking at the age of 28 a worthy successor to Danish compatriot Camilla Martin, a former world and All England champion.
But she is clear that the Chinese remain strong.
"They will be back," she forecast. "But it's nice that so many players from other countries made it through to the quarter and semi-finals."
The Super Series circuit moves on this week to the Swiss Open, the fourth tournament of the year, where Chen will defend the men's singles title he won in 2007.
Off court, officials will be breathing a sigh of relief there was no repeat in Birmingham of the bust-up at the Korean Open final in January involving world champion Lin in his match with home favourite Lee Hyun-il.
Lin also heads for the Swiss Open, injury permitting, now a declared fan of technology similar to that used in tennis and cricket to rule on tricky calls.
Badminton World Federation chiefs are continuing to consider the feasibility.