Doubles player Lai Pei Jing (front) had to play four matches in a single day at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. - GLENN GUAN/ The Star
GLASGOW: Mixed doubles shuttler Lai Pei Jing did not win any individual medals in her Commonwealth Games debut in Glasgow.
But the “iron lady” of badminton can still walk tall.
The 21-year-old Pei Jing endured one of the most challenging times of her budding career when she had to play four matches in a single day – and she showed the same kind of zeal and commitment in every match.
With the semi-finals and bronze medal playoffs being held on the same day, she found herself swamped with four times the workload – having qualified for both the mixed doubles (with Chan Peng Soon) and women’s doubles (with Lim Yin Loo).
Pei Jing, who hardly had any rest in between her four gruelling matches, hopes that organisers will not “torture players this way again”.
“Usually, the bronze medal playoffs are held on the same day as the finals ... I don’t understand why they scheduled the semis and bronze medal playoffs on the same day,” said Pei Jing.
“It was just too much on the players. I was exhausted.
“I pushed myself to the maximum. I was on my toes from morning. My body was weak and my muscles were sore.
“I had about two hours’ interval between the two sessions. I could not eat and could not sleep ... it was one of my most physically challenging competitions ever.”
Despite all that, Pei Jing gave it her all in every match.
She and Peng Soon went down fighting to Chris Langridge-Heather Olver of England in the semi-finals. Then, in the playoffs, they gave a rousing show before going down to Scotland’s Robert Blair-Imogen Bankier.
In the women’s doubles, Pei Jing-Yin Loo lost to Jwala Gutta-Ashwini Ponnappa of India in the semis but they put up a brave fight against England’s Gabrille Adcock-Lauren Smith in 82 minutes before going down.
In that match, the most number of strokes exchanged between them was 65 while the longest rally lasted for 63 seconds.
“The women’s doubles bronze medal playoff was my fourth match of the day. I hung on but my partner Yin Loo suffered from cramps. It really went down to the wire,” said Pei Jing.
“If only the playoffs were held a day later, I’m sure I would have had better chances of winning a medal. We would have been fresher. It is sad to end my first Games outing empty-handed … but, overall, I’m still satisfied.”
Pei Jing can now look forward to the World Championships, to be held from Aug 25-21 in Copenhagen, where she will be partnering Tan Aik Quan.
Meanwhile, top women’s singles shuttler Tee Jing Yi can also walk with her head held high despite losing to India’s P.V Sindhu in the bronze medal playoff.
Reaching the semi-finals itself is already a great achievement for her. After all, she also played her part in Malaysia winning the mixed team gold last week.