By Sportswriter Bai Xu
LONDON, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- China's Li Xuerui beat more heralded teammate Wang Yihan in three games to lift the Olympic badminton women's singles gold medal on Saturday afternoon.
The scores were 21-15, 21-23, 21-17 in Li's favor.
The fledgling Li was in very good form in the first game, dominating the court since the beginning. Her world top-ranked rival, on the other hand, made several mistakes by hitting back the shuttlecock to the net.
But Wang appeared more aggressive in the second game, lashing out diagonal smashes frequently, whereas Li, 21, tried to finish the competition quickly. They were locked in a seesaw battle with the scores tied for eight times, from 6-6 to 21-21, with the tenacious Wang saving two match points to surge ahead.
The deciding game started with Wang taking the lead, before Li collected seven straight points en route to victory.
The overjoyed Li threw away her racket to celebrate the hard-earned gold.
Li, previously from the Chinese military badminton team, gave a military salute on the podium, while Wang couldn't help shedding tears.
"Together with my teammate we played brilliantly, and presented an exciting match to the audience," said the champion. "Winning gold is a happy, exciting moment but the glory shouldn't be for me alone. It should be for the whole Chinese team."
"We both played well in terms of technique. In competition, there is the winner as well as the loser."
Li made her name known after beating Wang Yihan in the prestigious All England Open this March, and had been on a four-tournament winning streak before coming to London.
During the seven encounters between the pair, Wang had four wins against three losses. Li seemed on a winning track, edging out Asian Games champion Wang Shixian for an Olympic berth.
Earlier, second-seeded Chinese Wang Xin withdrew from the women's singles bronze medal match against Indian Saina Nehwal after clinching the first game 20-18.
"I slipped and hurt my left leg," said Wang Xin.
China's team doctor Li Quanyi said Xin was in a lot of pain with suspected ligament damage. "It is a new injury and has something to do with the sweat on the court."
Xin had asked Danish referee Torsten Berg several times to have the sweat wiped, but the latter refused.
"It was really sad that she got an injury," said Nehwal, who won India's first ever Olympic badminton medal.