Taiwan's Hsieh gets warm welcome in badminton

Aug. 09, 2008, 12:53 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Taiwan's Hsieh Yu-Hsing defeated Iran's Kaveh Mehrabi Saturday in his first-round match at the Olympic badminton tournament.

Hsieh won 21-16, 21-12, with the support of a partisan crowd that was clearly pulling for him, chanting "Go, Team China!"

"It was great," said Hsieh. "I felt like I was playing at home."

Beijing's communist administration considers Taiwan a breakaway province that should reunite with the mainland.

There were no mainland Chinese players in action on the first day of the badminton tournament where the host nation is expected to dominate.

A small group of fans shouted chants in support of Taiwan, but they were quickly drowned out by the more vocal Chinese fans.

Hsieh said he didn't mind where the support was coming from or which country the fans chose to root for.

"I wasn't even thinking about that at all," said Hsieh. "I was just trying to be serious and play each game well."

Most Taiwanese oppose a formal declaration of independence, something they made clear in March when they rejected the candidate of a pro-independence party in presidential elections. But they are also strongly against a union with the mainland, fearing it would put an end to their hard-won democratic freedoms.

In 1989, the two sides agreed that Taiwan could compete at the Olympics under the name "Chinese Taipei."