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LONDON (AP) – A Chinese badminton star is apparently quitting the sport after she was one of eight players disqualified from the doubles tournament at the London Olympics for trying to lose.
A comment on a verified account for Yu Yang on the Tencent microblogging service late Wednesday read: “This is my last game. Farewell Badminton World Federation. Farewell my dear badminton.”
Yu’s retirement could not be immediately confirmed with Chinese badminton officials. In China, the lives of top athletes are closely controlled by sports officials, including decisions on retirement.
Yu and Wang Xiaoli were one of four doubles teams which appeared to play poorly on purpose to secure a more favorable position in the next phase of the event.
Two teams from South Korea and another from Indonesia were disqualified from competition but allowed to stay at the games – a step lighter than expulsion, the penalty for positive drug tests.
It appeared to be the first mass disqualification in Olympic history.
The feeble play was obvious to fans who attended the matches Tuesday night at Wembley Arena – they chanted, “Off! Off! Off!” – and to incredulous television broadcasters and viewers watching around the world.
“They’re serving fault and fault! They are just hitting the ball into the net!” the BBC’s David Mercer said in disbelief. “They are both trying to lose, and that is unforgivable. This is the Olympic Games.”
The Chinese players set off a domino effect when they tried to rig the draw after China’s second-seeded pair unexpectedly lost to a Danish team in the morning. The South Koreans and Indonesians, wanting to avoid a tough opponent as well, followed suit in later matchups.
Teams blamed the introduction of a round-robin stage rather than a straight knockout tournament as the cause of the problem. The round-robin format can allow results to be manipulated to earn an easier matchup in the knockout round.
None of the players was made available for interviews.
Yu went on state television in China to apologize “to all the badminton fans and friends over yesterday’s game, because we did not comply with the Olympic spirit, and did not deliver a match with our true level to the audience, the fans and the friends.”
In a statement released to Xinhua, the Chinese Olympic delegation criticized its players’ actions.
“The behavior by Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli on court violated the Olympics ideal and the spirit of fair play. The Chinese delegation feels distressed over this matter,” the delegation said.
Xinhua also reported Chinese badminton coach Li Yongbo apologized and accepted blame for the scandal.
“As the head coach, I owe the fans and the Chinese an apology,” Li said. “Chinese players failed to demonstrate their fighting spirit of the national team. It’s me to blame.”
Associated Press writer Scott McDonald in Beijing, China, contributed to this report.
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