Malaysian pair knock out Indonesia’s beloved ‘Minions’ in badminton
TOKYO—Celebrated men’s doubles world leaders Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia lost in the Olympics quarterfinals to a Malaysian pair in about half an hour for the week’s second major upset in badminton competition.
Gideon and Sukamuljo – known fondly at home as the “Minions” because of their diminutive stature – lost 21-14 21-17 to world number nine pairing Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik.
“I really can’t believe we won this today, especially at the Olympics,” Soh said. “It was the best game in my life, in my career.”
The match comes on the heels of one of the biggest upsets in badminton history on Wednesday, when men’s singles world number one Kento Momota’s Olympic dreams were crushed by number 38 Heo Kwang-hee of South Korea in the group stage.
“I don’t think anybody expected that but we have to respect Momota has been through a lot the last two years, he hasn’t played that much competitively,” said Denmark’s men’s singles world number two Viktor Axelsen, who smashed his way to a 21-16 21-14 victory over Taiwan’s Wang Tzu-wei in the last 16.
“I’m really happy with the way I played at a high level – not too many mistakes and I managed to go through with my game plan,” Axelsen said.
Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, the women’s singles world number three, made quick work of Canada’s Michelle Li in a tidy 21-9 21-7 match in the round of sixteen.
Okuhara, who said she was “a little scared” but won because she kept her focus, now faces China’s He Bing Jiao.
“China usually focuses on the Olympic Games more than other countries so I think I need to prepare well and think about her tactics,” she said.
Rio silver medalist and women’s singles world number seven PV Sindhu from India beat Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt 21-15 21-13 in a match that kept them both on their toes.
“I was rushing in my defense, and my coach was obviously telling me I was playing in the wrong way,” Sindhu said. “But I think I realized that after two, three points and I changed.
“I think the second game was pretty much fine because I was maintaining the lead and I was under control.”
In the women’s doubles quarterfinals, world number one pair Japan’s Yuki Fukushima and her injured partner Sayaka Hirota lost 18-21 21-10 21-10 to Chinese Jia Yi Fan and Chen Qing Chen, ranked third. There were 82 strokes in 84 seconds in one rally.
South Korea’s world number four duo Kim Soyeong and Kong Heeyong won a tense battle with second-ranked Japanese pair Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara, beating them 21-14 14-21 28-26.