American shuttlers advance in Olympic badminton
BEIJING (AP) Chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A" competed with "Go Team China" on Tuesday in an unlikely setting: the Olympic badminton tournament.
Americans Howard Bach and Bob Malaythong defeated South African brothers Chris and Roelof Dednam 21-10, 21-16 to advance to the quarterfinals of the men's doubles event.
The road to the podium won't get any easier for the American shuttlers. On Wednesday, Malaythong and Bach will take on the second-seeded Chinese pair of Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng for a chance to move on to the semifinals.
Cai and Fu, who are third in the world rankings, defeated Jens Dyrloev Eriksen and Martin Hansen Lundgaard of Denmark 21-12, 21-11 in the adjacent court.
As loud as the chants were Tuesday for the Chinese players, Bach knows they will be even louder on Wednesday at the Beijing University of Technology Gymnasium.
"I heard the roar when China scored a point," said Bach. "Unless we step up tomorrow, it's gonna happen again."
Bach said he knows the Chinese pair are at a different level than he and his partner, who are 20th in the rankings. "It's kinda like the difference between China and the U.S. in basketball," said Bach.
Malaythong said teamwork is the key to defeating the Chinese.
"We've just got to get it together," said Malaythong. "I need Howard to set me up and I can smash all day."
By reaching the quarterfinals, Malaythong and Bach have already advanced further than any American ever has in the Olympic badminton tournament, but the two aren't satisfied yet.
"We want a medal," said Bach. "Gold would be nice but just to get a medal would be a huge achievement for us."
Malaythong was born in Laos and moved to the States in 1990. Bach's family immigrated to San Francisco from Vietnam in 1982.
Malaythong wore a Stars and Stripes bandanna for Tuesday's match.
"I started wearing it at the U.S. Open and when I won I decided to keep wearing it," said Malaythong.
It's the first Olympics for Malaythong. Bach competed with Kevin Qi Han in the Athens Olympics four years ago but was eliminated in the second round by Eriksen and Hansen.
Badminton is not popular as a competitive sport in the United States but Bach, who was the 2005 world champion in men's doubles with Tony Gunawan, is hoping a medal in Beijing will change all that.
"We want to show the American public that this is a competitive sport," said Bach. "It's not just for the backyard barbecue."
For Malaythong, this will be his last shot at an Olympic medal. He lives in California now but will move to Boston after the Olympics to work as a badminton coach.
"I think the sport could explode in the U.S. if we get a medal," said Malaythong. "Right now, it's getting popular in California but if we win a medal that could change."
Bach said his father is in Vietnam on business now but is trying to get a visa to come to see him play in Beijing.