Eight female badminton players from China, South Korea, and Indonesia have been disqualified from the London Olympics over charges that they tanked a pair of doubles matches. Why were they trying to lose on purpose in the first place?
Claire Lomas was paralyzed from the chest down after a horse riding accident in 2007 but recently utilized a robotic exoskeleton to complete the London Marathon in 17 days. Now she gets to see how the technologically advanced suit works at home.
Lomas used a ReWalk suit created by Argo Medical Technologies (which you might have seen on Glee). According to their website, “As part of the clinical trials, the ReWalk was initially only available to those selected patients in PA, NJ , and Del. After completing successful trials and receiving FDA approval, the ReWalk-I is NOW being offered nationally to rehabilitation centers so that care givers can get their patients to stand and walk.”
The company backed a bid for the marathon and Lomas was able to raise around $317,900 for spinal damage research. The suit itself costs $71,000.
“The exoskeleton is activated by the wearer tilting their balance to indicate the desire to take a step. It supports the body’s weight and also allows the person to go up or down stairs, as well as sit or stand up independently,” writes Reuters. “The developers argue that savings on the treatment of ailments related to inactivity could offset the cost.”
They continue, “The company estimates that of the 6 million wheelchair users in the U.S. and Europe, around 250,000 could be suitable for using the ReWalk device. A report in 2010 by U.S. firm ABI Research forecast the market for this technology could be worth $320 million within 10 years.” They also remarked the U.S. and Israeli military are interested in the tech for injured soldiers but Lomas is happy with its every day advantages.
“One of the best experiences was standing at a bar,” she said.
Lomas had the job of lighting the Paralympic cauldron in Trafalgar Square this year but isn’t quite done with her accomplishments yet. Reuters writes, “Next year [she] plans a London-to-Paris bicycle ride using a so-called Functional Electrical Stimulation bike that artificially stimulates the paralyzed rider’s own muscles to propel it along.”
Eight badminton players have been disqualified from the Olympics for tanking. Why were they trying to lose, and why is the sport so dirty?
Photograph by Michael Regan/Getty Images.
It’s basically all Denmark’s fault—but we’ll get to that in a second. First, a word on the badminton tournament structure. Like many Olympic sports, badminton has a preliminary round that’s used to determine seeding and a knockout round that decides who wins gold, silver, or bronze. As the AP explains, “The round-robin format can allow results to be manipulated to earn an easier matchup in the knockout round.”
Given that just 16 teams entered the women’s doubles tournament and half qualify for the knockout stage, it was possible for teams to clinch a spot in the medal round with one preliminary game remaining. That’s exactly what one Chinese, two South Korean, and one Indonesian team did. And in a stroke of rotten luck for the tournament organizers, two matches on the final day of qualifying featured contests between those already-qualified teams.
When a match is useful for positioning and nothing else, the door is open for nefariousness. The torrent of skullduggery began after one of China’s two women’s doubles teams—Zhao Yunlei and Tian Qing—lost to Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl by the score of 22-20, 21-12. That shocking result meant the two Chinese teams—the tournament favorites—would meet in the semifinals of the knockout round rather than the gold-medal game, depriving China of the chance to win both gold and silver. China’s only hope of putting two teams in the finals, then was for the country’s other team of Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang to lose, thus pushing themselves to the opposite side of the bracket. Once their South Korean opponents saw what the Chinese were up to, they decided it was also in their best interest to lose—that a defeat would give them better medal-round matchups as well.
The resulting loser-takes-all match proved that top-level badminton players need to learn how to lose intentionally without looking like they’re trying to lose intentionally. As the crowd groaned and booed, the Chinese and South Korean players repeatedly served the birdie into or under the net, looking less competent than a bunch of Americans playing with a plastic Target badminton set at a backyard barbecue. China’s Wang and Yu ultimately succeeded in losing, but their defeat was a Pyrrhic victory (or, I guess, a Pyrrhic defeat)—if they hadn’t tanked so ostentatiously, they’d probably still be in the tournament today.
That pathetic display from the Chinese and South Korean pairs set the stage for another round of tanking. In the South Korea-Indonesia match an hour later, both teams again had good reason to do their worst. If the South Koreans won, they’d have to face their countrymen in the quarterfinals; if the Indonesians were victorious, they’d have to play the powerful Chinese team that had just succeeded in losing.
All that lack of effort came to nothing when all four of the not-so-lovable losers were expelled by the Badminton World Federation for “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.” With those four teams now eliminated, the big winners are the Chinese team of Zhao and Tian, whose loss to Denmark kicked off the disgraceful cascade that ended up clearing the draw of all the top contenders. They now seem likely to cruise to the gold medal.
Some American sportswriters have seemed surprised that wimpy old badminton—“an obscure, easily mocked sport,” as Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg put it—finds itself caught up in a major scandal. But the sport has a long history of match-fixing. In 2008, for instance, the South Korean national team admitted to tanking against England and Malaysia in the first round of the Thomas Cup to increase its chances of being matched with a weaker team in the quarterfinals—Denmark. “We formulated a strategy before we arrived … and that means not finishing top of the group,” said South Korean coach Kim Jung Soo at the time. (Later that year, Kim was suspended over allegations that he embezzled money from a badminton organization.)
Badminton-centric blogs and online message boards are riddled with cheating allegations, some more substantiated than others. Chinese players are often at the center of these claims. As Tarek Hafi put it in Badzine (“The World’s No. 1 Badminton Webzine”), “crowds and badminton fans around the world have become accustomed to some trepidation before any match between two Chinese sides.” At the world championships in 2003, Chinese doubles players Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen were accused of tanking a match so their opponent—another Chinese doubles team—would have a better chance of advancing. In the women’s semifinals at the 2004 Summer Olympics, China’s Zhou Mi was allegedly instructed by her coach “not to work too hard” in her match against teammate Zhang Ning. Zhang went on to win gold. The same thing is said to have happened at the 2000 Sydney Games, when Ye Zhaoying was told to lay down against Gong Zhichao. Gong eventually won gold.
Silly, innocent-seeming badminton is no stranger to doping controversies, either. In 1998, Indonesian doubles’ star Sigit Budiarto tested positive for nandrolone. In 2010, Zhou Mi tested positive for the steroid clenbuterol and was suspended after the Badminton World Federation didn’t buy her explanation that it must have come from eating some tainted pork.
The scandals also extend to the officials who oversee the game. In 2008, the controversial Punch Gunalan was fired as vice president of the Badminton World Federation after an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the organization’s president. And in 2011, the badminton world got hot and bothered after the BWF, in an attempt to draw more attention to the sport, attempted to implement a rule that would require female players to wear skirts during major tournaments. Female players revolted and eventually won the right to wear non-skirt attire. At this Olympics, they proved that they didn’t need to wear flattering uniforms to get the world’s attention. All they had to do was play really, really, really badly.
Aly, from Massachusetts, she said it made her gold even more special. She performed to Hava Nagila, a traditional Jewish score used for weddings and bar mitzvahs
American gymnast Aly Raisman has revealed the music for her gold medal-winning floor routine at the London Olympics was a tribute to the victims of the 1972 Munich Games terror attack.
The 18-year-old said choosing Hava Nagila- a traditional score used for wedding dances and bar mitzvahs - was a response to the International Olympic Committee’s failure to mark the 40th anniversary of the tragedy.
And for Aly, from Needham, Massachusetts, she said it made her gold even more special.
‘I can only imagine how painful it must be for the families and close personal friends of the victims,’ she said.
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Munich tribute: Gold medalist Aly Raisman poses on the podium during the medal ceremony for the floor exercise
‘I am Jewish, that’s why I wanted that floor music,’ she told the New York Post. ‘I wanted something the crowd could clap to, especially being here in London.
‘It makes it even much more if the audience is going through everything with you. That was really cool and fun to hear the audience clapping.’
Eleven Israeli athletes were killed during the 1972 Munich Olympic Games in the now infamous Palestinian terrorist attack. Only recently it has been revealed German neo-Nazis helped them.
A campaign was launched by Israeli officials and the widow of one of the victims for a minute’s silence during the opening ceremony but IOC president Jacques Rogge ruled that out.
President Obama also threw his support behind the call for a commemoration of the massacre at the London Olympics.
NBC’s Bob Costas also blasted the decision, saying it was ‘insensitive’ and held his own moment of silence when Israeli athletes marched into the Olympic Stadium.
Fitting: Aly said: ‘That was the best floor performance I’ve ever done, and to do it for the Olympics is like a dream.’
Aly hugs coach Mihai Brestyan after winning the gold medal for her floor exercise
(From left) Bronze medalist Russia’s gymnast Aliya Mustafina, gold medalist US gymnast Aly Raisman and silver medalist Romania’s gymnast Catalina Ponor after the event
Aly was shocked when the judges announced her winning score of 15.600 points that made her the first American woman to strike gold in the Olympic floor exercise.
‘That was the best floor performance I’ve ever done, and to do it for the Olympics is like a dream,’ Aly said.
Remember: During the 1972 Munich Games, a group of Palestinian terrorist kidnapped and killed much of the Israeli team in a highly-publicized ordeal
Terror: Eleven were killed by the Palestinian Black September group
THE 1972 OLYMPICS MASSACRE THAT SHOCKED THE WORLD
It began on the morning of September 5, 1972, with six days left in the Games, when eight terrorists stormed the Olympic village and raided the Israeli contingent’s apartment.
Two Israeli athletes were killed and nine more were seized as hostages.
They demanded the release of over 200 Palestinians serving time in Israeli jails, along with two renowned German terrorists.
After a day of unsuccessful negotiations, the terrorists collected the hostages and headed for the military airport in Munich for a flight back to the Middle East.
At the airport, German sharpshooters opened fire, killing three of the Palestinians.
A horrifying gun battle ensued, claiming the lives of all nine of the hostages and two terrorists on board a helicopter.
The three surviving assassins were captured, but later released by West Germany following the hijacking a Lufthansa airliner by the Black September group.
Rabbi Keith Stern, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Avodah in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, where the Raisman family are members, said: ‘She is a focused person. She’s very proud and upfront about being Jewish. Neither she nor her family explicitly sought to send a message. But it shows how very integrated her Jewish heritage is in everything that she does.’
Rabbi Stern told the New York Post that he was also stunned by the IOC’s refusal to hold a moment of silence during the event.
‘I’m happy to hear any other explanation,’ he said. ‘But short of some racist grudge somebody is holding, I can’t figure out why it would be a terrible thing to do.’
The Rabbi said he watched the routine and was blown away.
‘I have to say, the statement just warmed me to the very depths of my being,’ he said.
He compared it to the iconic black-power, raised-fist protest made by track stars John Carlos and Tommie Smith on the medal stand at the 1968 Mexico City Games.
‘They’re not going to forget that,’ the rabbi said. ‘I certainly won’t.’
Eventually, a low-key tribute in front of 100 people was paid at the signing of the Olympic Truce in London’s Olympic Village after the Games opened, the first time it has happened inside an athletes village.
This was not the first time the IOC passed over a moment of silence.
In the 2002 Olympics held in Salt Lake City - and largely organised by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney - organisers marked the 30th anniversary but did not hold a moment of silence.
There was also a separate commemoration for the victims of September 11th.
Golden girls: Jordyn Wieber, Kyla Ross, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabrielle Douglas of women’s Gymnastics show off their medals
During coverage of this Olympics, U.S. broadcaster NBC has sparked anger in the host country after cutting away from the Opening Ceremony when a tribute to the victims of the London 7/7 bombings was shown.
The station said the tribute to the devastating attack - which killed 52 people and left many with life-changing injuries - ‘wasn’t tailored to a U.S. audience’. It showed an interview with swimmer Michael Phelps instead.
Kate Middleton is admired around the globe for her beauty and elegance, so Britons aren’t taking kindly to the July 12, 2012 cover of the U.S.-based New Republic magazine that features their beloved Duchess with yellowed, decaying teeth. The unflatteringly retouched photo superimposes the 30-year-old onto a frayed Union Jack along with the headline, “Something’s Rotten. The Last Days of Britain.” The special issue, published in the run up to the London Olympics, contains a number of articles on England’s decline, including a critique of British soccer.
Reactions from across the pond have ranged from anger over Catherine’s ugly image to disgust with Americans’ stereotype of the English as all having brown, crooked teeth.
“Cheap shot,” wrote a reader of the Daily Mail. “They know she will remain dignified and not say a word, allowing them to ‘get away with it.’”
“No fan of the royals or Kate either, but its a shameful abuse of photoshop taking very cheap and nasty shot at the royals, Kate and Brits in general. I agree with the person who said they should be sued,” chimed in another.
“Typical misguided stereotype that Americans hold of us in Britain. In the first week that I visited the USA, I was genuinely asked, ‘Do all you Brits have crooked teeth?’ Mine aren’t and none of my friends have crooked teeth. Silly stereotype.”
A Mirror reader wrote: “Now how would Americans like it if our political magazines featured obese burger-munching Americans on its front cover? They’d be the first to complain.”
However, not everyone is taking offense. “I prefer the photo shopped picture, it makes her look like a ‘normal British person,’” wrote another Mirror reader. “Remember us? We are the ones that really have teeth like that whilst our tax pays for the likes of her to have perfect teeth.”
The Daily Mail reports that Middleton did have her teeth straightened and whitened by orthodontist Dr. Didier Fillion before her 2011 wedding to Prince William. Treatments can cost as much as $15,000. It’s speculated that she wore hidden braces that closed a gap behind her two front teeth.
The image isn’t enough to turn off diehard Duchess fans, though. “It’s satire, get over it! I for one think she still looks lovely with rotten teeth,” wrote one reader of the Mail.