PETALING JAYA: The women have, traditionally, been perceived as the weak link in badminton mixed doubles, with the men expected to carry the pair through.
But the likes of China’s Zhao Yunlei and Ma Jin, Indonesia’s Liliyana Natsir and Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen have debunked that theory in recent times with match-winning performances.
Zhao Yunlei and Zhang Nan are the current world No. 1, as well as reigning world champions, and clear favourites for the Olympic gold.
Liliyana, on the other hand, is seen as one of the finest women shuttlers in mixed doubles having won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Games with Nova Widianto.
Liliyana and partner Tontowi Ahmad, the world No. 4, have already won three titles – Swiss Open, India Open and All-England – this year and will be among the favourites in London.
The Xu Chen-Ma Jin partnership and Europe’s main hopes, Joachim Fischer Nielsen-Pedersen, are also in with a shout.
But Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying should not be written off either. Liu Ying, who has improved by leaps and bounds over the past year, will certainly be key to how the world No. 7 fare in London.
Liu Ying’s improvement came after she was paired with Chin Eei Hui for a few months in the women’s doubles while Wong Pei Tty was on the crocked list.
Currently enjoying their highest ever ranking, Peng Soon-Liu Ying have enjoyed several firsts this year, including reaching the semi-finals of the All England for the first time.
However, national mixed doubles coach Jeremy Gan believes that although Liu Ying’s vast improvement is a good sign, the pair still have a lot of work to do.
“The difference between the likes of Liliyana and Zhao Yunlei compared to Liu Ying is that they have achieved results on the biggest stage,” said Jeremy in a telephone interview from Bath.
“Those two, together with Ma Jin and Pedersen, are big game players and will shine in the Olympics.
“In contrast, this will be Liu Ying’s first Olympics and she hasn’t achieved any significant result in her career as yet. It will definitely be a factor when it comes to match day.
“All I’m asking is she keep up the good fight and be brave and consistent against tougher opponents,” said Jeremy.
Peng Soon-Liu Ying’s performance in London may very much depend on the latter’s fitness as she is still recovering from a slight shoulder injury.
“She had a slight pain before we left but she is getting better and there’s nothing to worry about,” added Jeremy.