By John Ruwitch
BEIJING (Reuters) – Britain's Gail Emms and Nathan Robertson eliminated second seeds Zheng Bo and Gao Ling of China in Olympic mixed doubles badminton on Tuesday, exacting revenge for Athens when Gao helped deny them the gold.
Emms and Robertson took the first game, winning 21-16, but the Chinese rallied and won the second by the same score. In the third, the Athens silver medallists were down at one stage 6-12, but clawed back to win 21-19.
Earlier, American men's doubles team Howard Bach and Bob Malaythong beat South Africa's Chris and Roelof Dednam to become the first U.S. badminton players to reach Olympic quarter-finals.
In the mixed doubles, momentum had shifted in the Britons' favour by the middle of game three and the fist-pumping Emms and Robertson allowed the Chinese only three of the last 14 points.
"That's what the Chinese always do so well against us, they fight when they're down and come back, they never give you anything. So it was fantastic to turn that on them for a change," Robertson said after the match.
Emms, 31, and Gao, who was gunning for her fifth Olympic medal, have both said this would be their last Olympics. Gao, 29, and her former partner Zhang Jun won gold in Athens and Sydney.
Asked if she considered the tight duel on Tuesday a grudge match, Emms said all matches were important.
"It might have meant a tiny bit more being Chinese (opponents) in the first round in China," Robertson joked.
Emms added: "And the fact she beat us in the Olympic final four years ago might have given us a little bit of more incentive, but hey, it is the Olympic Games."
U.S. men's doubles team Bach and Malaythong now face China's Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng on Wednesday.
"If we go out and happen to win tomorrow, it's going to be like USA basketball vs China, that type of deal," said Bach. "I believe our odds are a little bit higher."
Also on Wednesday, unseeded Japanese pair Miyuki Maeda and Satoko Suetsuna, who engineered a massive upset against the defending gold medal winners and top seeded Chinese team, face the fourth seeds Lee Hyojung and Lee Kyungwon from South Korea in the women's doubles semi-finals.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch, editing by Keith Weir)