The U.S. team was the anchor for the increased media exposure of the sport in the United States and they did not disappoint as Howard Bach (San Francisco, Calif./Orange, Calif.) and Khan "Bob" Malaythong (Rockville, Md./Orange, Calif.) made history for the United States at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China becoming the first Americans ever to advance to the quarterfinals in Olympic badminton competition.
Bach and Malaythong defeated the brother tandem of Chris Dednam and Roelof Dednam of the Republic of South Africa in their opening round match of the 2008 Olympic Games Badminton Tournament on August 12. In the quarterfinals they were matched up against the number two ranked team in the world and home country favorites in China's Yun Cai and Haifeng Fu. With the rousing cheers of the sellout crowd, the Chinese team jumped out early on Bach and Malaythong and never looked back, winning the match by the score of two games to none (9-21 and 10-21). Cai and Fu went on to win the Olympic silver medal for China at the 2008 Olympic Games, falling to Indonesia's Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan in the gold medal match.
Though disappointed by their loss in the quarterfinals, Bach and Malaythong can hold their heads high knowing that they made history by advancing farther in an Olympic badminton tournament than any American before them. Surrounded by over 20 reporters in the mixed zone following the match, the two began to understand how much their accomplishment meant for the future of their sport in the U.S.
"We feel like we've come a long way since starting out," said Malaythong. "We've won international tournaments and Grand Prix together. I think our name is out there in the U.S. and hopefully we can continue to promote badminton and help it grow in the U.S. I'm going into coaching so hopefully I can help coach an Olympic champion for the U.S. one day."
For Bach, advancing to the Olympic quarterfinals is the latest of first in his USA Badminton career. A member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team (with Kevin Han), Bach became the first U.S. citizen ever to win a World Championship title in badminton when he teamed with Tony Gunawan, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist for Indonesia now living in Orange, Calif., to win the gold medal in men's doubles at the 2005 World Badminton Championships in Orange, Calif.
Following the 2008 Olympic Games, Bach will take some time away from international competition as he looks forward to his upcoming marriage in fall of 2008 to fiancé Penelope Salac. Malaythong will also be taking time away from competing at the elite international level as he has taken a coaching position in Marblehead, Mass.
Eva Lee (Orange, Calif.) was the busiest of the USA badminton players at the 2008 Olympic Games as she qualified for and competed in two disciplines (women's singles and women's doubles) in her first Olympic Games. Lee opened the Olympic badminton competition for the U.S. on Saturday, August 9, dropping a heart breaker to Canada's Anna Rice in the opening round of women's singles action by the score of one game to two (21-15, 19-21, 19-21).
Lee competed in the opening round of women's doubles with teammate Mesinee "May" Mangkalakiri (Garden Grove, Calif.) on Sunday, August 10, but the two fell to Yanmei Jiang and Yujia Li of Senegal two games to none (12-21, 12-21).
Rounding out the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team for Badminton was Raju Rai (Atlanta, Ga./Anaheim, Calif.). Rai suffered a two games to none loss to Finland's Ville Lang (9-21; 16-21) in the opening round of the men's singles competition.
For USA Badminton, the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team was the largest since the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga., USA. The 2008 Olympic Games was the second Olympic Games for Bach, but the first for Malaythong, Rai, Lee and Mangkalakiri. The team was coached by Zi Min Cai (Orange, Calif.), the coach of the 1996 Thailand Olympic Badminton Team.
2008 United States Olympic Team for Badminton and events they competed in:
Howard Bach (San Francisco, Calif./Orange, Calif.) - Men's Doubles
Khan "Bob" Malaythong (Rockville, Md./Orange, Calif.) - Men's Doubles
Raju Rai (Atlanta, Ga./Anaheim, Calif.) - Men's Singles
Eva Lee (Orange, Calif.) - Women's Singles and Women's Doubles
Mesinee "May" Mangkalakiri (Garden Grove, Calif.) - Women's Doubles
Head Coach: Zi Min Cai (Orange, Calif.)