- Only mixed doubles pair captures gold through defending champions Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong
- Alarm bells ringing 12 months ahead of Tokyo Olympics
China's once-mighty badminton team returned home after their worst performance at the world championships, with alarm bells ringing less than a year away from the start of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Defending mixed doubles champions Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong won the only gold medal, no other mainlander even reaching a final in the week-long tournament in Basel, Switzerland.
The last time China won only one gold medal at the worlds was in 1993 and 1995, but on both occasions they still had another silver to boost their haul. This time, they captured only four more bronze (there were no third-place play-offs, both losing semi-finalists being awarded bronze).
China Badminton Association chairman Zhang Jun, who took up the post early this year, apologised for the dismal results. "We failed to live to the expectations of the fans," said Zhang, an Olympic mixed doubles champion at the 2000 and 2004 Games. "Other nations are improving fast and although our players worked very hard in Basel, there are still many problems.
"The tournament is over and none of us is happy with the results as we have to go home and sort out how to close the gap against other nations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics."
The most embarrassing result came in the men's singles where China featured reigning Olympic champion Chen Long and Lin Dan, the previous two Games' champion and the most successful player at the worlds with five golds to his credit. Neither reached the medal podium.
The tournament is over and none of us is happy with the resultsZhang Jun, China Badminton Association chairman
Chen was eliminated by Anders Antonsen of Denmark in the quarter-finals, while Lin, 35, crashed out in the second round, perhaps signalling a decline related to his age. Two up-and-coming players, Lu Guangzu and Huang Yuxiang, were also sent home in the early stages.
Rio champion Chen, however, remained upbeat about his performance, saying the defeat was not unusual.
Although world number three Shi Yuqi missed the tournament because of an ankle injury, China failed to win a medal in the men's singles for the first time in 24 years.
In the women's singles, top player Chen Yufei was totally outplayed by Pusarla Sindhu of India, the eventual champion, in her 21-7, 21-14 semi-final defeat. The 21-year-old appeared to have been exhausted by her previous matches. Doubles hopes Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan lost to an Indonesian pair in the last eight after two games, both in deuce.
Men's doubles second seeds Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen made serious strategic mistakes in their semi-final defeat by their Japanese rivals, according to chairman Zhang, who is also their coach.
Mainland fans jeered Zhang online, some saying there was nothing to worry about as the results "came as little surprise". Another fan wrote on the Sina Sports social media portal that the fact Lin Dan was still playing showed that Zhang was not capable of doing his job. Another fan put it bluntly: "Zhang, steps down".
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