There is a reason not many world records are broken during preliminary rounds in swimming, track or rowing. The immediate goal is to just do well enough to get to the finals by exerting as little energy as possible. If you push yourself to the limits too much, you might not have enough 'oomph' to medal. On Wednesday, several athletes found out the hard way why coasting can cost you.
Eight female badminton double players were kicked out of the tournament and sent packing from the Athletes’ Village. Officials determined they were purposely trying to lose first round matches in an attempt to “earn” perceived easier matches in the knock out stages. Indonesia and China each lost a team while South Korea lost two.
One match was so laughable that the crowd rained boos upon the “competitors”. The fans had spent money on flights, hotels and hard-sought tickets in hopes of seeing the Olympic motto of “faster, higher, stronger” played out on the badminton courts. Instead, they witnessed the players purposely hit the shuttlecock out of bounds, miss on serves and react slowly. It wasn’t against the rules, but deemed against the spirit of the games.
Sandbagging wasn’t contained to badminton, as the Belarus men lost to an Egyptian team who most analysts said was the weaker team. Needing only a tie to advance to the next stage, first time Olympians Belarus played a bunker style defense. Playing it safe backfired as the Egyptians proofed relentless with three goals. By the time Belarus changed tactics, it was too late and they fell 3-1.
Playing the same strategy, Japenese Women’s coach, Norio Sasaki, admitted that he instructed his team to play for a tie against South Africa. He was quoted by USA Today as saying, “I feel sorry we couldn’t show a respectable game, but it’s my responsibility, not the players, why the game was like that. It was important for us not to move to Glasow.” Going to Glasgow would have meant they won their group and had to travel. Now they can rest and play Brazil against travelling to face France. FIFA says it won’t investigate any further and no action will be taken.
Each sport is overseen by its own organization and some rules don’t cross-over. While Japan and Belarus were clearly not trying their best to be “faster, higher, stronger” they weren’t exactly purposefully fouling the other team in the penalty box nor handing the ball over. As Belarus proved the strategy can backfire. In Japan’s case, they get to treat the first game of knock-out as a home game but they still have to face Brazil.
The lesson learned the hard way, is sometimes it pays to pull back a little in the early stages but the spirit of the games is still most important.
Medal Point Totals
Rank Country Total
1 China 30
2 USA 29
3 France 13
4 South Korea 12
5 North Korea 5
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