Wed August 1, 2012
Eight Badminton Players Disqualified From Olympics
Originally published on Thu August 2, 2012 7:31 am
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The Olympics, in London last night, featured the best and worst of athletic behavior. American swimmer, Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian ever, winning his 18th and 19th career medals. But over at the badminton arena, eight women competing in doubles events seemed to do their best to lose, which has led to an uproar, not to mention an endless number of puns on the word: badminton.
NPR's Howard Berkes joins us from London to talk about both developments. Hi, Howard.
HOWARD BERKES, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: Starting with the bad, going to the good, what exactly happened with badminton?
BERKES: I was going to say one of those puns, this is all about bad badminton. Sorry about that.
INSKEEP: Didn't mean to ruin your line, there. Go on.
BERKES: That's all right. What happened was that these eight women who were competing in four pairs in the women's doubles competition, just, sort of, deliberately, you know, did poor serves, weak serves. They lofted the shuttlecock. You know, this is a - the shuttlecock can move at 200 miles an hour and they were just, you know, lightly hitting it and hitting it out of bounds. They were clearly, deliberately trying to lose. And this is part of an effort that some badminton athletes do from time to time, to get a better placing, later.
INSKEEP: A better placing later in this tournament as it develops. If you lose an early match, you can actually end up with different opponents and perhaps easier opponents later on?
BERKES: They were trying to - they were strategically trying to figure out who would be better to compete against later. And so by performing poorly last night, they were setting themselves up for competing against athletes who they thought they could beat.
INSKEEP: OK. There was talk of an investigation earlier today. Has it now been concluded that, in fact, these women did this, deliberately, and is this cheating? What happens to them?
BERKES: The investigation has partially concluded. They have been, um, suspended. They have been disqualified from the badminton competition here. We're not sure exactly what that means, except that probably their performance yesterday will not count and that they will no longer be able to compete here at the Olympics. Women from Korea and Indonesia have appealed and the World Badminton Federation is meeting to consider that appeal and they'll issue a ruling later today.
INSKEEP: Dwelling on the irony, here, that their defeats - their losses will not count. But in any case, Michael Phelps's medals count. Number 18 and number 19 - what did he get them for?
BERKES: Well, he competed in the 4-by-200 freestyle relay, that was his last event of the evening, and the Americans won the gold medal. They were out front on a world record pace from the very beginning. And Phelps, earlier competed in the 200 meter butterfly. He won the silver medal there. But, he was touched out at the very last second, by another athlete from South Africa. A similar thing happened four years ago in Beijing, except at that - in that race, Phelps was the one who did the last minute touch and he got the gold medal there.
INSKEEP: Yeah, very memorable race. So, what happens now with Michael Phelps?
BERKES: Well, he has two definite chances to add to his boat-load of Olympic medals. He's swimming in the 200 individual medley tomorrow, he's got a 100 butterfly on Friday, and he's likely to be in a relay on Saturday, the 4 by 100 medley relay. He was asked, by the way, whether this record was untouchable. His answer was no, nothing is untouchable.
INSKEEP: Howard, thanks very much.
BERKES: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Howard Berkes in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.