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Tuesday April 24, 2012

BWF to change Olympic qualifying format

KUALA LUMPUR: The Olympic qualifying format for badminton is likely to be changed to forestall manipulation by certain countries to maximise the number of entries in their favour.

Badminton World Federation (BWF) deputy president Paisan Rang­sikitpho hinted as much after the recent incident involving a match between China’s Lin Dan and Chen Jin that raised speculation of match fixing to benefit the latter in the rankings.

Lin Dan’s withdrawal from the semi-final against Chen Jin in the Asian Badminton Championships (ABC) last week was officially ex­­plained as due to a back injury.

Four-time world champion Lin Dan’s forfeiture allowed Chen Jin to go all the way to win his first ABC title in Qingdao on Sunday. More importantly, the result will most probably propel Chen Jin from fifth to fourth position in the world rankings and enable him to book a place in the London Games together with his two other comrades — world No. 2 Lin Dan and No. 3 Chen Long.

The BWF’s current rules permit a country a maximum of three singles players in the Games if all of them are ranked in the top four in the world.

However, China are not the only country involved in this jockeying for advantage and, in any case, the tournament doctors have never disputed the “injuries”.

Rangsikitpho said a change was inevitable to strengthen the integrity of the Olympic qualifying system.

“There is no concrete evidence of match fixing but I can say that the current format may have to go as it is open to abuse.

“The one-year Olym­pic qualification period has to change so that we will give players a fair chance to qualify,” said Rangsikitpho in a telephone interview.

“All the speculation right now is not good for the world body or the game. There shouldn’t be any room for players to beat the system. We have to be fair to all.”

Rangsikitpho did not elaborate on what the changes could be but it looks like the world body may scrap the ruling that allow a country to have a maximum of three players if all of them are ranked in the top four and replace it with a straight forward qualification.

On Lin Dan’s injury at the ABC, Rang­sikitpho chose to tread with caution.

“It isn’t fair to make a conclusion before seeing the reports from the tournament director, referee and the doctor. The BWF would rather wait before reviewing the matter,” he said.

“BWF endorse the ABC (run by the Badminton Asian Confederation) as part of the Olympic qualifying tournament but, unfortunately, none of our BWF staff, including our official doctor, was there in Qingdao. We have no choice but to wait for the report from them.”

It is learnt that Lin Dan’s condition was confirmed by China’s team doctor.

“In our BWF events, a team doctor’s report is usually re-examined by our official doctor if players have injured themselves or are floored by illness outside of the court area during the tournament. Now, we have no choice but wait for the reports.”

Lin Dan has also pulled out of this week’s India Open and will make his return at the Thomas Cup Finals in Wuhan from May 20-27.

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