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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Bruce Li' eyeing bronze

Canada getting its first shot at badminton medal

Posted: 08/3/2012 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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LONDON -- Two days ago, Alex Bruce and Michelle Li were tourists in London, believing they were out of the Olympics.

Now, the two young badminton players are making history, jettisoned into the spotlight as one of Canada's feel-good stories of the Games.

And like any celebrity supercouple, they've been tagged with their own nickname -- "Bruce Li."

The Toronto twosome will play for a bronze medal, thanks to a shuttlecock scandal that has rocked the sport at the London Olympics. Bruce and Li were beaten by No. 4 seeds Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiwa 21-12, 19-21, 21-13 in the doubles semifinals Thursday.

But no Canadian has ever won an Olympic badminton medal or even made the semifinals.

"It's been a bit of a roller-coaster emotionally, with our nerves and the news that has been going around . . . we just tried to stay calm and focus on the match," Bruce said.

"I'm pretty sure everybody who never watches badminton has started to see the badminton on TV and that makes me feel really happy, because we're making history and I'm really proud that we can get this far, and we're playing so well," Li added.

They'll play Russians Valeria Sorokina and Nina Vislova for third-place Saturday at Wembley Arena in an unlikely Olympic storyline neither Canadian could have envisioned.

The 22-year-old Bruce and 20-year-old Li thought their Games were over Tuesday morning after they went 0-3 to finish last in their pool by a combined score of 126-52.

"We finished our pool play in the morning. . . so all during the day I was out with family and friends, hanging around London, we were at Canada Olympic House," Bruce said. "I actually came back for the evening session, had dinner, went to bed, slept in."

The next day the 27th-ranked Canadians found themselves in the semifinals after eight players were expelled from the competition for losing on purpose, accused of throwing their matches to set up a more advantageous path through the medal round.

The Canadians, gold medallists at the Pan American Games last fall in Mexico, were reinstated and just hours later went on to defeat Australia's Leanne Choo and Renuga Veeran in the quarter-finals.

"It's such a roller-coaster, we're in, we're out, we're back in, and not only are we back in but we're in the medal round," said coach Ram Nayyar. "The Olympic experience is hard enough to manage. . ."

Sorokina and Vislova who were also reinstated after originally being eliminated, lost 21-19, 21-6 to China's Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei in Thursday's other semifinal.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 3, 2012 C5

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