Beiwen Zhang competes against He Bing Jiao (China) during the women’s round of 16 at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 29, 2021 in Tokyo.
Up 1-0 and in a close second game of the women’s singles Round of 16 against China’s He Bing Jiao, Beiwen Zhang appeared on the verge of a famous victory in U.S. Olympic badminton history.
Then in an instant, she was down on the court in pain with what would later prove to be a ruptured Achilles tendon. The injury ended her tournament before she could become the first U.S. badminton player to advance to the individual quarterfinals. Zhang was even considered a contender to earn the first U.S. Olympic badminton medal.
Zhang flew back to the U.S. on Thursday for surgery, and was in good spirits according to a post on Instagram.
“Thank you for all the heartwarming messages,” Zhang wrote. “I will back on court as soon as I can! I Love badminton as always!”
Despite the heartbreaking ending, Zhang still had the best performance of the four-person U.S. team, becoming the only player to advance to the knockout stage. She beat both of her Group H opponents 2-0, and was more than holding her own against Jiao, the No. 8 player in the world.
On the individual men’s side, Timothy Lam had a tough road in a group that contained two-time defending world champion Kento Momota of Japan and Heo Kwang-hee of South Korea. Lam lost both matches but felt proud of his first Olympic performance.
“I think it’s a very good experience for my future,” he told USA Badminton. “And it’s definitely something I’ll remember forever.”
The remaining U.S. entry was in men’s doubles, where Olympian Phillip Chew teamed up with his brother Ryan, who was making his Olympic debut. The brothers played some close games but finished 0-3 in their group.
“It was just an honor getting to play at this level and caliber and also getting to play with my brother,” said Ryan.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo2020 to view the medal table, results and competition schedule.