General

2004, European success at the birthplace of the Olympics
Date: 7/23/2021 8:43 AM
Published by : Sara Gonzalez Martinez (BEC)
Clinching three medals, Europe obtained a great result in the 2004 European Olympics that took place in Athens, Greece.

It had been 12 years since badminton was included at the Olympic Games not just as a demonstration sport, and it had also been 12 years since the Olympics were played in Europe. It was a great return home, as Europe performed well thanks to medallists from three different countries. Athens 2004 was also a return to where it all began for the biggest multi-sport event.

This would also be special Olympics for badminton, as it would be their best performance since the sport’s inclusion in the games. Europe was slowly but steadily increasing their medals, and this time they would be taking the podium in two categories.

Europe was joined by a legend
Women’s singles would see a familiar face in its podium, but something was different about it. Mia Audina gave once again an impressive performance all throughout that would earn her a historic feat.  

After a move fuelled by love, Mia Audina would take part in Athens 2004 not playing under the Indonesian flag like she did in Sydney 1996, but representing the Netherlands. The former Indonesian player impressed the crowds not due to one but two incredible achievements.

Not only did she repeat history by winning silver in women’s singles just as she did eight years earlier, but also went on to become the first ever badminton player to have two medals for two different countries.

It was a close call in men’s singles. Peter Gade was the only European in his category to make it to quarterfinals, but with a sharp result of 15-12, 15-12, he lost to Indonesia’s Taufik Hidayat coming close to the podium but not making it as the gold medallist stood on his way.

Almost all-European podium in mixed doubles
The Danish duo of Jens Eriksen/ Martin Lundgaard Hansen certainly gave it their all in men’s doubles. They faced no other than China’s Fu Haifeng/ Cai Yung, one of history’s best pairs in their category. But the Danes were just as powerful.

It was a three-game decider at quarterfinals and yet Eriksen/ Hansen came out as winners, going through to semifinals where they would face South Korea’s Lee Dong-soo/ Yoo Yong-sung. After yet another three-game match, a hard-fought one for sure, they did not make it to the podium.

It was a similar affair for Netherland’s Lotte Bruil/Mia Audina and Denmark’s Rikke Olsen/Ann-Lou Jørgensen in women’s doubles. The two European pairs fought their way to quarterfinals but did not succeed in earning any medals — at least in this category, in the case of Audina.

However, mixed doubles was a huge triumph for Europe in these Olympic Games. Two out of three podium spots were taken by Nathan Robertson/ Gail Emms and Jens Eriksen/ Mette Schjoldager. Danes Jonas Rasmussen/ Rikke Olsen nearly got their hands on a medal, but a loss to Zhang Jun/Gao Ling in semifinals stopped them from doing so.

Robertson/Emms and Eriksen/Schjoldager faced each other in an all-European semifinal. After a first set in which the Brits came out as superior, the Danes stepped it up but did not prevent the British pair from winning in straight sets.

Emotions were running high in the final. Zhang Jun/Gao Ling were the reginign chapions, having won gold just 4 years earlier in Sydney 2000. It was a whirlwing of a match, starting with a 1-15 for the Chinese duo. 

With boos from the British crowd to their representative’s opponents and Emm’s frustrations with the succession of events, Robertson and Emms succeeded in taking back control in the second game, taking a huge leap and winning the second set 15-12. Still, the reigning champions hit back and won the final set, winning gold whereas Robertson/ Emms earned a well-deserved silver.

-It was such a close final and we were leading in the third game. I just think they were a bit more positive right at the end. That was the difference, Robertson told BBC Sport.

Gail Emms won an Olympic medal, an outstanding achievement done by just a few. The doubles player’s ambitions were high, but she was nonetheless happy with the outcome.

-I think we exceeded what we expected to do out here, but you go out there and you want to win and there is a gutting feeling when you lose, Emms explained to BBC Sport.
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