Chinese badminton player quits sport after controversy

LONDON — The disgruntled crowd at Wembley Arena booed and loudly urged the now-dishonored badminton players to get off the court.

Yu Yang of China apparently is going one step beyond that, putting down her racket for good, and will hit the shuttlecock no more. She took the step of announcing the move herself though social media — Tencent Weibo — saying goodbye to “dear badminton.”

This came after eight female badminton players from China, South Korea and Indonesia — including Yu and her doubles partner, Wang Xiaoli — were kicked out of the Olympic Games by the sport’s international federation Wednesday for seeming to tank round-robin matches to get an easier draw in the quarterfinals.

PHOTOS: London Olympics — Day 6

The fallout from the seemingly unprecedented mass disqualification continued. Reports in China added to the intrigue behind the scenes. Team officials said that Wang injured her right knee in the midst of pre-match warmups, causing the highly regarded doubles team to hold back against the South Koreans.

The online badminton publication Badzine ran an article late last year, analyzing match statistics from tournaments in 2011 and concluded:

“More than 20 percent of matches is either not finished or not played when Chinese shuttlers play against their own compatriots. Chinese shuttlers met each other 99 times on the circuit this year, and 20 matches were either not played at all [11 walkovers] or played partially before one of the opponents retired [9 retirements].

“This shows that 20.20% of matches between Chinese shuttlers were not completed in 2011.

"... These figures have to be put in perspective as China has the largest contingent of players at high level — more than a third of the matches played between compatriots [99 of 289 matches] are played between Chinese shuttlers. Never the less, it has raised some questions amongst the badminton community.”

— Lisa Dillman

Weltz enjoys the ride

If the U.S. swim team were to present a Pierre de Coubertin Award, to the athlete who most exemplified the Olympic founder’s motto that participating in the Games was more important than winning, Scott Weltz would win in a landslide.

He placed fifth in Wednesday’s final of the 200-meter breaststroke, with Daniel Gyurta of Hungary setting a world record.

“I feel like a part of history,” Weltz said. “I’m just happy with this whole Olympic experience. I don’t have any regrets.”

To say Weltz was a longshot to make the Olympic team would be a severe understatement. He never had won any event in a major meet. He swam four events in the 2008 Olympic trials, finishing 30th, 38th, 65th and 67th.

In 2010, after Weltz had concluded his NCAA career at UC Davis, the school cut its men’s swim team. Although Olympic-caliber swimmers generally train with one another, and with a club team, Weltz trained with the UC Davis women’s team.

USA Swimming did not include his biography in its media guide for the Olympic trials. Weltz stunned the swimming community by winning the 200 breast, and with it a ticket to the Olympics.

“I’m just enjoying the ride,” he said. “Obviously, I wanted to medal. But I’m not going to hang my head. I did the best I could. I had fun with it.”

Before the trials, Michael Phelps had no idea who Weltz was. Before Weltz swam here, Phelps wished him good luck.

“It’s pretty cool,” Weltz said. “I’ve watched these guys swim my whole life, all these fast guys. Now they’re my teammates. There is so much energy now, and being able to say they’re my teammates has fired me up.”

— Bill Shaikin

Race tightens

Updating the always-fascinating medal race at the Olympics:

Heading into Thursday’s action, China led the overall table with 17 golds and 30 medals, and the United States was second with 12 golds and 29 overall.

And after Thursday?

Talk about a dead heat, in terms of gold. The Chinese picked up one gold and the Americans collected six, bringing the total for both to 18.

Overall, the United States leads, 37-34. Japan has 19 medals overall.

The gold ground the Americans picked up came from mostly expected sources, gymnastics and swimming. Gabrielle Douglas won the women’s all-around gymnastics title and swimmers were responsible for three more: Phelps in the 200-meter individual medley, Tyler Clary in the 200-meter backstroke and Rebecca Soni in the 200-meter breaststroke.

The two other gold medals came from the women’s eight in rowing and Kayla Harrison, who made judo history by taking the 78-kilogram title. It was the first gold in judo for the United States.

— Lisa Dillman