Olympics-Badminton-Guatemala in semi-finals with shock win; China takes first loss
When Kevin Cordon was 12, he moved from rural Zacapa, Guatemala alone to the capital city to pursue his dreams of playing badminton at the Olympics.
TOKYO: When Kevin Cordon was 12, he moved from rural Zacapa, Guatemala alone to the capital city to pursue his dreams of playing badminton at the Olympics.
But that seemed beyond Cordon, now 34, who has languished low in the men's singles rankings for years, sustaining injury after injury that kept him from playing in top form.
On Saturday, however, the world's number 59 player crushed better-ranked Korea's Heo Kwanghee 21-13 21-18, and made it into the semi-finals of the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Cordon now has a shot at bringing home Guatemala's second ever Olympic medal.
"I play really hard with my heart. I don't think; I just play," said an exhilarated, red-eyed Cordon who fell to the floor curling into himself and sobbing at the end of the match.
"It's not easy for us as a country - there are more important things in Guatemala to support than sport," said Cordon, named after England soccer great Kevin Keegan, as football is the main sport in his country. "That's our reality."
Cordon, who had to pull out of his first match at the Rio 2016 Olympics due to an injury, will play world number two Viktor Axelsen in the semi-finals.
"I don't think anybody would have guessed that Kevin would have done so well," Axelsen said. "Awesome guy and awesome story, but I'm going to do my best to end that story tomorrow."
With powerful smashes in quick succession, the Dane beat China's Shi Yu Qi 21-13 21-13, ending the country's streak of unbeaten matches at the Tokyo Games.
"I knew that I had to take control I had to play the right game," Axelsen said. His team mate, men's singles third seed Anders Antonsen, didn't fare as well, getting knocked out of the quarter-finals by Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia.
Ginting will go on to face Chen Long, who redeemed China's pride when he beat Taiwan's Chou Tien-chen 21-14 9-21 21-14 with a tight net-game and sharp smashes.
In the women's doubles semi-finals, Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan beat Kim Soyeong and Kong Heeyong from Korea 21-15 21-11. The Chinese will face Indonesia's Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu, who beat Korea's Lee Sohee and Shin Seungchan 21-19 21-17, dashing the country's hopes for an Olympic medal.
(Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Christian Radnedge)