SUZHOU: China claimed a record 13th Sudirman Cup title on Sunday, defeating South Korea on home soil at the first major sporting event in the country since the lifting of pandemic restrictions.
Cheered on by a raucous crowd brandishing red and white thundersticks and loud horns in the eastern city of Suzhou, China made short work of the Korean side, beating them 3-0.
Chen Yufei defeated world number two An Se Young 21-16, 22-20 in the women’s singles to seal victory, prompting the packed stadium to erupt in cheers and the entire Chinese team to rush onto the court to dance in a circle.
The tournament is one of badminton’s most important, and the stakes are higher than usual this year because performances will count towards qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
China had come through a tricky semi-final against Japan on Saturday, with the men’s doubles pair of Liu Yuchen and Ou Xuanyi saving four match points before finally prevailing.
South Korea beat Malaysia 3-1 on their way to the final on Saturday.
Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong lost the opening game of the mixed doubles but pulled it back in a tense point-for-point second game to eventually triumph 18-21, 22-20, 21-8.
A jubilant Zheng jumped up and down in excitement, ripped off his shirt and threw it into the crowd. His partner Huang threw her racket to a delighted spectator.
In the men’s singles, Lee Yun Gyu was easily outmatched by Shi Yuqi, unable to deal with Shi’s powerful smashes and laser focus.
The long rallies between Chen and An, who looked increasingly frustrated as the match wore on, drew gasps from the crowd.
Virtually all international sports events ground to a halt in China after the coronavirus pandemic emerged there in late 2019, with a notable exception being last year’s Beijing Winter Olympics that were held in a virus-secure “bubble”.