Srikanth, Saina deliver historic badminton gold

Susan Ninan in Gold Coast3 Minute Read
Srikanth had lost to Lin Dan in the quarterfinals at the Rio Olympics.AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili

India won their first ever badminton gold in the mixed team category at the Commonwealth Games, after securing a 3-1 victory over Malaysia in Gold Coast.

Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa gave India a strong start, clinching the mixed-doubles rubber with a 21-14, 14-21, 21-15 win against Peng Soon Chan and Liu Ying Goh. Srikanth built on that strong start by defeating Lee Chong Wei in straight games, and though the men's doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Ranki Reddy lost their match, Saina Nehwal ensured India would bring home their elusive gold medal after beating Soniia Cheah 21-11, 19-21, 21-9.

The tone was set by Srikanth's 21-17, 21-14 win over Lee Chong Wei in 43 minutes. "Today was one of those days when everything went fantastic," Srikanth said after the win. "It was important to play well and not make too many simple mistakes. I didn't want to give him too much of a lead. I think that worked for me."

"Whenever you play someone like Lee Chong you don't expect it to be straight sets so I really didn't expect it at all. It's not that I didn't allow him to play his game. He has been the No.1 for so many years so definitely it will not be on the opponent to allow him or not."

While not wanting to comment on Lee Chong's game, Srikanth said his strategy was to avoid giving him easy points given the speed of his game. "He has the experience to come back after trailing 14-10. I was trailing at one point in the first game then at 15-15 I just thought I should play it hard and not give him any room. The first match result really helped me to be calm since we had the advantage. This will be our first gold medal so it's a happy time for us."

But there's no rest for Srikanth. "I have a day off before the singles event so I'll probably relax a bit, I've played too many matches in a row now."

The match was played to a packed house, with the queue leading up to the venue snaking as far as the beer counters in the greens. The louder cheers clearly belonged to Lee Chong Wei, in his blonde streaks and slight built, when the players were introduced at the Carrara stadium.

With a 2-0 lead, India had the chance to secure gold in the men's doubles match, but Chirag and Rankireddy lost 15-21, 20-22 to V Shem Goh and Wee Kiong Tan.

Indian flags were found in the stands as the match progressed, as was the ever-faithful chant for all seasons and reasons, 'Jetega bhai jeetega, India jeetega'. The chants and cheering reached a peak during the final match, when Saina clinched the gold. PV Sindhu and the rest of the Indian team members sat hunched forward in their chairs while coach Gopichand wore his usual serious look.