C'wealth Games: Clear path to redemption for Singapore shuttlers
After a year where they were more often smashed rather than delivering smashes, Singapore's shuttlers face their opportunity for redemption at the Commonwealth Games.
They could not have asked for a better chance, helped by favourable draws and the absence of big names in Glasgow this week. With the withdrawal of singles stars Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia) and Saina Nehwal (India) through injury and with countries testing new partnerships, India's female pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa are the only defending champions taking part this year.
No wonder Singapore's chief coach Liu Qingdong - who was appointed in February following a backroom re-shuffle - expects podium finishes in all six events.
It is a stark contrast from last year, when players and officials were left red-faced after a poor showing at the Singapore Open and just one bronze medal at the SEA Games, down from a gold and four bronzes in 2011.
Liu said: "Now, the team is in good form mentally and physically - their form has met the expectation I set when I took over. "With Chong Wei out, India are the strongest team overall here, while England and Scotland could also be dangerous."
In the mixed team event which starts tomorrow, Singapore are in a relatively trouble-free group with South Africa, Jamaica and the Norfolk Islands.
The Republic's shuttlers took home one silver and two bronzes at the 2010 Games in Delhi.
Malaysia, led by world No. 1 Lee and doubles specialist Koo Kien Keat, claimed four of the six golds on offer but have sent a largely developmental squad to Glasgow.
Liu expects his women's top seeds Shinta Mulia Sari and Yao Lei - who lost to Gutta and Ponnappa in the final four years ago - to go one better this time.
Yao said: "There is great chemistry between myself and Shinta now. Our communication both on and off court has improved and we know better what to expect from each other on court."
Husband-and-wife pair Chris and Gabby Adcock from England are the mixed doubles top seeds, with Singaporeans Vanessa Neo and Danny Chrisnanta ranked second.
Luck also seems to be on the side of the Republic's top men's player Derek Wong, who will avoid the top two seeds Chong Wei Feng (Malaysia) and Parupalli Kashyap (India) until the semi-finals if he progresses.
The world No. 39 opens his campaign against Jersey's Mark Constable next Tuesday.
He said: "When you look at the draw, no one really stands out so it's pretty much a fair run for all for the gold.
"Our team is determined to prove that Singapore badminton has a bright future and is capable of delivering for our country at major tournaments."
This article was first published on July 23, 2014.
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