Yu Yang’s retirement announcement
Hold the phones, everyone. This story isn’t as straightforward as we thought, and it doesn’t seem like Yu Yang completely agrees with the Badminton World Federation’s decision to disqualify her and teammate Wang Xiaoli for match fixing. (Also, she announced her retirement on Tencent Weibo, but we’ll get to that in a second.)
Yesterday on Tencent Weibo (Tuesday night London time), before BWF had passed judgment, reporter Zhang Nan posted (my translations; original message appears at bottom):
I just learned a piece of information from the team ~~ Wang Xiaoli injured her right knee in warmups before today’s competition ~ because they had already advanced out of the group stage, they held back* during the match ~ also discovered opponents basically didn’t warm up ~ understood they had no intention of winning the match ~ during the match the opponent first shaved a point ~ affected their [Chinese team's] state of mind ~ in end the led to today’s situation ~ if only there were nothing to Wang Xiaoli’s injury ~~
*Ed’s note: my translation of “控制,” which really means controlled/had control over.
Yu Yang replied to that message thusly:
Tomorrow is the knockout round, we don’t have much time to make adjustments. No matter the result, we’ll give it our all. Hope fans can understand our situation.
Over the course of the day, a whirlwind blew through the badminton world as BWF announced four pairs of teams would be disqualified from the women’s doubles tournament (but could continue in other badminton events). BWF posted its message under its official Tencent Weibo account, and two minutes later, Yu Yang replied with this bombshell:
This is my last competition. Goodbye Badminton World Federation, goodbye my beloved badminton.
We’re not sure what to make of her decision to retire, whether she’ll hold to it or not, considering she’s only 26 years old, and whether it’s a direct result of BWF’s decision. Earlier that day, she went on Chinese TV to issue what seemed like a sincere apology to fans for her and teammate Wang Xiaoli’s performance on Tuesday, when they purposely lost to South Korea’s Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na.
But soon after she announced her retirement, Yu Yang had something else to say, directed at BWF. Again, Tencent Weibo:
We were simply injured, simply chose to abandon the match within the rules. Simply to play better in the second phase of competition, the knockout rounds. This is the first time the Olympics changed the rules to have pool play before knockout rounds, do you guys understand an athlete’s injury? Four years of preparation and hard work with injury, (they) say it’s gone and our right to compete is gone. You guys ruthlessly* shattered our dreams. Situation’s just that simple, not complicated, but is so unforgivable.
*Ed’s note: or ruthlessly/mercilessly
That message has gotten 43,776 reposts and replies, most of them very supportive of Yu.
Yu won the women’s doubles gold medal at the 2008 Olympics and bronze in the mixed doubles, and also won gold in the women’s doubles at last year’s World Championships in London.
UPDATE, 2:28 pm: Clarification on the headline: Yu never personally said her team’s performance was due to Wang’s injury. Obviously someone close to the situation fed that information to the journalist though, and Yu, in her reply to Zhang Nan and later message, implies that Wang’s injury at least caused them to not try their hardest. She does not, of course, ever deny throwing the match, and her televised apology to Chinese fans really does seem sincere.
Journalist Zhang Nan’s injury announcement and Yu Yang’s response about the next day’s competition:
Don’t you ever, don’t you ever… stop being manly playing bad at badminton?
Its the manner in which they lost…not clever enough to throw a match and make it look like they were at least trying. To be ‘cunning’ is more-or-less a noble trait in modern China (swindle someone without them noticing). The most damning thing you can say is that they were terrible even at this. Fuck them.
This is not so believable when you consider that that throwing matches was proven through three national teams. It wasn’t one person being injured and playing badly.
I watched both matches, and all eight were awful. Injury? There’s no way eight athletes were all injured in the same way at the same time. Plus, you could clearly see the lack of effort. Sometime the birdie would go two feet beside them, and they wouldn’t even bother taking a step in that direction.
None of them complained of injury before. None of them were wearing tensor bandages or braces or seemed injured during the match.
Plus, after the referee reprimanded them, they actually played an active, physical, real game before lapsing back to being terrible. So they were physically capable.
When the accusations first arose, Indonesia and Korea denied it. But China came flat out and said they accepted them and said they would investigate their own athletes.
Then the Chinese coach publicly took responsibility and blame. Then the players themselves did public apologies. All of this points to the fact that they knew they were in the wrong.
Only after all this does she say she was injured. I just don’t believe it. Especially since she had to put in a jab about the round-robin system, which has nothing to do with injury.
Part of me feels bad for them. You train your whole life, and then you’re embarrassed in front of the world. Maybe it’s natural for a highly competitive athlete, who suddenly feels shame and loss, to react with an excuse.
But I don’t feel too bad for them. My husband said: Thousands of athletes train their whole lives and wish to be in the Olympics, and just don’t make it. They would do anything to be up there on the big stage. And these world champions just throw away their chance to excel.
But that’s a question of ethics and principles. Do you just want to just win, or win with honor, or play honestly but not necessarily win?
There’s no rule about ensuring / improving chances to win by strategically losing. It is shameful they were so obviously trying to lose — but does doing so warrant disqualification? Instead, should BWF revisit the change in their competition structure and their rules / guidelines? Should there be a stricter warning such as, “if you are seen to be losing on purpose again we have the right to disqualify you,” before an actual disqualification?
Actually, there are black and white rules against deliberately losing. That’s the one that got them disqualified. It’s in the Olympics rule book.
* “not using one’s best efforts to win a match” *”conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.”
And, actually, they were warned repeatedly by the referee. The Indonesians and Koreans even got a rare black card.
These are top athletes with top coaches. They knew full well they were doing something wrong.
But doesn’t it seem strange that if they had lost a little less transparently, all would be OK? What exactly merits this ex post facto DQ, considering it had no precedent?
Also, the ref only gave a black-card warning. I’m sure if, at any time, an official had told the participants in clear terms, “If you keep doing this, you will be disqualified,” everyone would have bucked up and competed.
Actually, I’ll rescind that last part … maybe officials were clear with their warning. But my point remains that the fundamental flaw was with the pool-play system. We don’t have to like what the athletes did (and I don’t), but I don’t think it merited disqualification.
He was clear as clear can be. I don’t know what versions different people may have watched, but in what I saw you could clearly hear that he said that if they didn’t play “both teams can be disqualified,” repeating for emphasis.
She’s a liar and whatever sympathy I had is gone. I’m sure they didn’t reach this decision on their own and are basically the victim of the commie sports machine, which is now throwing them under the bus and harumphing about them being a disgrace because there is basically no defense for the little farce they put on. And yet she makes up excuses about injuries that anybody can see through. Hurt or not, Olympic-class athletes don’t suddenly play worse than the worst players in a high school gym class.
What is a black card warning in Badminton? Can someone share with me as every news I search now gives information about give the black card but no description of what a black card means. Does giving a black card mean something along the lines of, “if you do this again I will disqualify you from the event?”
Also, can someone find me the actual rule or code of conduct that these players broke (instead of relying on news sources). I’m searching on the Olympic site and going through the Charter but I can’t find it.
I think you just don’t know what effort is.
Do you really think these players didn’t want to win? that they didn’t train hard for the olympics?
If the rules allow the players to loose in order to have better chance to win a medal then there’s no reason to blame the players but the BWF!
They should take the responsibility and accept that they made a mistake by setting up the new game format!
Instead of recognizing their mistake, they just cover themselves by sacking the players!
It’s so unfair!
Yep, I call bollocks on the injury excuse too….
there have always been incidents like these in world badminton involving chinese players. high time somebody took some serious actions. BWF has been wimps because the chinese has so much clout in world badminton. such a disgrace! i applaud the decision! by the way, i am a chinese too…..
They were “cheating” to gain an advantage in the next round..
Cheat, or tank your game, you will be removed from the competition. To play to lose is disgusting “sportsmanship”.
The excuses are garbage, she admitted they did it to influence the selection of their opponent in the next round.
No loss to professional sport, what these LOSERS did was NOT professional.
Petulant excuses… “I didn’t do it!!” “The rules are stupid!!” “We had an injury!!” “I hate you guys and I’m not going to play with you anymore!!”
… this is met with supportive replies?
How about an acknowledgement of guilt and a sincere apology?
They supplied both. Please see: http://beijingcream.com/2012/08/chinese-fan-reaction-to-disqualification-of-badminton-team/
I do still think the format was, if not stupid, shortsighted. But I more strongly feel the punishment was too severe. (Also see above link for explication.)
You can’t say that there was an acknowledgement of guilt and a sincere apology if she is now claiming that the injury is responsible for the poor performance. It was either on purpose or it wasn’t.
just read the update… so maybe she isn’t making excuses?
Not condoning their actions. But I’m in agreement with Tao here that the punishment was perhaps too severe and the format of the tournament questionable.
Is the disqualification based on rules (which I just want to know for my own reference are what in the Olympic’s Charter or Badminton Guidelines) because I actually can’t find them, or based on “what’s right” to do – so a question of ethics and principles?
The problem is not these players. Other players could have done the same if they were in a similar situation.
BWF is really to blame by setting this game format, it’s not a coincidence that half of the players played this way while this never happened before!
BWF should take on its responsibility, admit they set up a wrong game format and restart the competition! this would surely be more fair than disqualifying the players!
By changing the rule to pooling players has already showed that the white people have fear against Asian players in badminton. Having Chinese vs Chinese and SKoreans vs Skoreans will ensure more white atheletes to advance to final 4. This is the only purpose and nothing else.
When this dirty trick fails, those white trash just had to go even lower to force Chinese players to go full force with injury or get disqualified.
This decision against 3 Asian countries is a bloody shame, and London 2012 will always be remembered as the worst olympic ever due to racism.
Yes I agree, totally racist.
What about BLACK badminton players?
Thats complete GARBAGE. It wasnt “white people” that cheated, it was CHINESE and KOREANS.
They are cheats, China is a nation known to cheat, as much as possible, to win medals (institutionalised drug doping etc. etc.)
They were warned, and they deliberatley threw the game to influence the draw.
Thats cheating, not playing to win, and is a disgusting show of “sportsmanship”.
To not play your best at every game is PATHETIC. If they dont understand how innapropriate that is at the Olympics, maybe they shouldnt be there.
Naira, saying this was done for racist reasons just makes you appear to be a bad sport too (and a little ignorant)..You wouldnt be saying that if it was another countrys players would you.
THEY CHEATED, GOT CAUGHT, GET OVER IT.
“The online badminton publication, Badzine, ran an article late last year, analyzing match statistics from tournaments in 2011 and concluded:
“More than 20 percent of matches is either not finished or not played when Chinese shuttlers play against their own compatriots. Chinese shuttlers met each other 99 times on the circuit this year, and 20 matches were either not played at all [11 walkovers] or played partially before one of the opponents retired [9 retirements].
“This shows that 20.20% of matches between Chinese shuttlers were not completed in 2011.”
INSTIUTIONALISED CHEATING AND MANIPULATING OF DRAWS.
THATS CHEATING, PLAIN AND SIMPLE.
This kind of change happened to other Olympics sports in the past…
Btw, it’s quite racist to call Asians a race. Even associating a place with the people in there is not very smart… like you don’t have “white” people in Asia, such stupid idea.
Um what a load of garbage..
People that live in Europe (lots of different countries and languages, people of different skin colour) = EUROPEAN
People that live in Africa (a collection of countries, with people of different skin colours) = AFRICAN
People that live in the Americas (North, South, Central, no matter what their colour) = AMERICANS
People that live in Asia (no matter what country or skin colour) = ASIANS..
You are an ignorant twit..
It is amazing how people see conspiracy everywhere they look. This is not racism – shame on you for alleging this.
Personally, I feel that this is largely the fault of the new pool system. It creates dead rubbers – meaning that some matches are totally pointless. Even worse, it leads to unavoidable situations like this – which mean that these competitors are playing a match that it is better for them to lose.
I do not blame the players for this, but unfortunately they did transgress the Olympic rule and so have received the ultimate sanction. I would have preferred there to have been an inquest (leading to a change in system for the next games) and for these players to have received a clear warning (and a chance to apologise).
Unfortunately, whilst the players are not without fault, their error is smaller than the error of the sporting body – only, the players are the public face and so are deemed to be the ones that need punishment. My sympathies lie with these players – and I very much hope that Yu Yang rescinds her decision to retire.
Here’s the point though, no matter the situation, no matter if it’s pool play or a useless game or whatever NO ONE should be playing to lose. If you’re an athlete and have pride in yourself and your nation you should actually go out and compete.
Let’s take another example of a pool play match where a team could have thrown a match and would have ended up in a theoretically better situation:
In the 1992 Olympics basketball pool play nobody wanted to get into the bracket to face the American Dream Team. The heavily favored team to win the Silver, Lithuania, could have taken a dive on their final pool play match against Australia and gotten themselves 3rd in their pool and out of facing the US in the second round and thus would have had a better chance of only facing the Americans in the Gold medal game. In their final game if they had lost to Australia they would have guaranteed only facing the Americans in the finals.
What did the Lithuanians do? They went out and beat Australia by 11 and ended up facing the Americans in the semifinals (and were blown out in what a lot of people called the “real gold medal game”).
You know why they didn’t lose intentionally? They probably decided that things like national pride, honor, sportsmanship, and giving it your best in all situations is better than having a better “shot” at winning a better medal.
You play to win, you don’t play to lose. Otherwise you shouldn’t be playing at all. The BWF did exactly the right thing and I promise you no one’s going to think twice about whether they are there to be a winner or a loser next time.
Just as an added fun fact, you know what the Lithuanian team did after they won their bronze medals? They went back to the Olympic Village, got drunk, had an arm wrestling contest with other athletes, and were –by all accounts– drunk and happy when they got on the podium to get their bronze medals. That’s called winning and winning with style no matter the actual medal around their necks.
whether the playing format is at fault or if injuries is an excuse or if the rules are stupid, the bottom line is they were trying to LOSE!!!! what sort of message are they trying to bring to the young children who idolises them?? for that alone, they deserves EVERY punishment they got. BWF has got to get their act together, these has gone gone for a long time and it was ALWAYS a slap on the wrist for the offending players. I love the sport too much for it to be degenerated by these idiotic players, no sympathy from me whatsoever
you summerized the story in excess and too quickly :”they were trying to lose” you should say “they were trying to loose a meaningless match in order to win the competition” that would make more sense!
Do you really think this behavior is unique ?
Make whatever excuse you like for their behaviour, THEY WERE DELIBERATLEY TRYING TO LOSE..
The losers now are THEM, hope they have a nice trip home haha
The BWF has been trying to give badminton more international appeal à la tennis. So, like table tennis, the rules were changed to reduce Chinese and other Asian dominance in the sport so that other nations could have a better chance of competing, and people from those countries would want to watch the game.
But that doesn’t equate to racism. It’s more of an affirmative action system along national lines.
The quirky thing, though, is that they’ve had this exact same problem before, and recognised it as such:
Ah, learning from past mistakes~
Its not racist. To say that is ignorant. Badminton is one of those sports that really mainstream in some countries (say, China, Korea or Indonesia) and insignificant in other countries. Let’s stop talking about it as if its soccer/football.
It is the combination of bad tournament management and classes behavior from the athletes.
The comedy in this absurd story is wrapped up nicely in this commercial:
Some blame the round-robin system for creating this type of situation. I don’t. There are round robins used in other sports and, still, people and teams are expected to compete.
When examining the ethics of what the disqualified players did, it can be instructive to look at doping in baseball. It was wrong. The players knew it was wrong. The coaches and team owners knew it was wrong. But it was not punished. For me, it is easy to forgive the baseball players because, although they knew what they were doing was wrong, there were no consequences.
Yet, at some point, enforcement of rules must start somewhere. In this case the players clearly knew what they were doing was wrong. Why would they try to disguise it at all (the missed serves hit the tape at the top of the net–they could have simply hit the serves into the net; they lied about why they played ludicrously badly: “conserve energy” “other team really good” “injury”). They knew it was wrong but they had never before suffered consequences for throwing matches. Their coaches (at least the Chinese coach) instructed them to throw the match.
Given what they knew and what they were being told to do, the play (or lack thereof) by the players was reasonable. Given that rules regarding effort and competition must, at some point, be enforced, it was reasonable for the players to be disqualified.
In the end, a good outcome would be to provide at least a modicum of discouragement to players and teams considering throwing matches.
Yu Yang will be very badly missed. I hope she will continue with Badminton. They should not have been disqualified. It was the poor set up of the rules for these Olympics that created the bad situation. Why change the rules now. If the WBF can explain why they changed the rules it might help to understand. Until then I’m on the players side.