Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia, July 10, 2012: The final qualifying phase of the London 2012 Olympic Games has concluded on July 9 with world number 3 Li Xuerui receiving her London call-up after China turned down world number 4 Wang Shixian’s invitation.
After an inconsistent second half of 2011, Wang had found herself barely hanging on to her world number 3 spot on May 3, the cut-off date of the Olympic qualification period. While Li, who was ranked 4th on May 3, was a mere 696.7 points behind Wang.
Less than a month later, the 21-year-old overtook Wang on May 31, and now sits comfortably ahead with 3944.5913 points clear.
Li held an impressive 30-match unbeaten run record between February and June this year, bagging five individual titles including the prestigious Yonex All-England Open title after a courageous final’s performance against world number 1 Wang Yihan.
After winning the title, Li had not dreamed of qualifying for London 2012 but consistency was to be her middle name when she remained unbeaten to pick up her second Asian Championships title and her second OSIM BWF World Superseries title in India in April.
Li’s winning streak finally came to an end at her sixth consecutive final of the year, but only after a gruelling 65-minute battle against India’s Saina Nehwal that ended in nail-biting scores of 21-13 20-22 19-21. Wang Shixian, 22, on the other hand, started the year brightly with a World Superseries Premier title in Korea but took a rollercoaster ride falling to Juliane Schenk and Saina Nehwal who are both ranked below her.
Wang had sat on the world number 1 spot for 29 weeks in 2011 but an unexpected quarter-final exit at the 2011 Yonex World Championships in London was to be her turning point as she slipped to the world number 2 spot the following week.
Wang briefly regained her world number 1 spot for three weeks in November, but early exits at the 2011 Yonex French Open and 2011 Li-Ning China Open meant she had to contend with ending the year in the precarious world number 3 spot. A country can have up to three Olympic singles qualification berths if at least three players qualify in the top four.
During the earlier qualifying phases, Maria Febe Kusumastuti (Indonesia), Jeanine Cicognini (Switzerland), Anne Hald Jensen (Greece) and Claudia Mayer (Austria) had their women’s singles invitations declined. Indonesia, Switzerland and Austria then subsequently accepted the invitations of Adrianti Firdasari, Sabrina Jacquet and Simone Prutsch respectively.
New Zealand also turned down the invitations of Michelle Chan (women’s singles) and James Eunson (men’s singles), while Netherlands turned down the men’s singles invitation of Eric Pang. Both New Zealand and Netherlands did not receive further invitations and their spots were offered to players on the reserve lists.
Czech Republic’s cancer-beater Petr Koukal, who benefited from Pang and Eunson’s absence, received double joy when he was also appointed his country’s Olympic flag bearer last week.
The ‘live’ draw ceremony will be held on 23 July at the Main Press Center in the Olympic Park in London. —– BWF