| LONDON, July 28
LONDON, July 28 Former Olympic champion Taufik
Hidayat convincingly won his first round men's singles match to
stay on a collision course with Chinese arch-rival Lin Dan as
the London Games' badminton tournament kicked off on Saturday.
Hidayat's opponent, Czech cancer survivor Petr Koukal, won
admirers just for being at the tournament.
Indonesian Hidayat, perhaps the only player to have ever got
under world number one Lin's skin, barely broke sweat as he
toppled the towering Koukal 21-8 21-8 at a still and muggy
Hidayat, who won gold at the 2004 Athens Games, faces
another group match against Spain's Pablo Abian on Tuesday
before a likely round of 16 encounter against reigning champion
The 30-year-old Hidayat has failed to reach the heights of
his world title-winning days in the middle of the last decade,
but Lin was a keen observer in the stands of the player he
shared a string of spats with in years past.
"I'll try to do my best in my last Olympics but Lin Dan is
the best in the world," a pessimistic Hidayat told reporters.
"When I was young, (I could beat anyone). Now I am old."
Koukal carried the flag for the Czech Republic at Friday's
opening ceremony and appeared drained as he clambered in vain
after sweetly-timed drop-shots and smashes.
Less than two years ago, Koukal feared for his life after he
was diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent months of
chemotherapy after having emergency surgery.
He started training again last year and his Olympic
qualification was hailed as a "Lance Armstrong" effort by Czech
media, in reference to the American cyclist who overcame
testicular cancer before going on to win seven consecutive Tour
de France titles.
The rangy Koukal was disappointed with his performance
against Taufik, however, and said his late night duty as Czech
flag bearer probably had not helped.
"About a year and a half ago I wasn't really sure I would be
alive so this is a win for me just to be here," he said.
"I was honoured to carry the flag, so I couldn't say no."
Britain's Union Jack flag was ever-present in the packed
4,800 seat venue and local fans greeted mixed doubles medal
hopes Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier with a thunderous roar
when they marched on court.
But after a promising start, the British world silver
medallists were ground down 14-21 21-9 21-18 by the disciplined
Russian pairing of Aleksandr Nikolaenko and Valerya Sorokina.
"We got a great start, our tactics were bang on ...
unfortunately we didn't keep the pressure on them in the second
and they got the momentum," Adcock said.
"It definitely wasn't stage fright, it was the fact that
they managed to change their tactics to combat ours and they
obviously did that very successfully."
The British pair face an uphill battle to make the knockout
round of 16 and must finish in the top two of their tough Group
A which features the Chinese world number one pairing of Zhang
Nan and Zhao Yunlei.
Twelve years after winning a men's doubles gold for
Indonesia at the 2000 Sydney Games, Tony Gunawan's hopes of a
dream debut for his adopted United States were dashed when he
and partner Howard Bach lost in straight sets to South Korea's
second seeded pairing of Chung Jae-sung and Lee Yong-dae.
After Adcock and Bankier's early loss, Briton Susan
Egelstaff brought some cheer back to the home crowd when she
disposed of Slovenia's Maja Tvrdy 21-15 21-10 in the women's
singles. Tvrdy admitted rowdy local fans had thrown her off.
"I don't usually hear anything but today I could hear the
clapping," she said. "They were even clapping when I made a
mistake. It wasn't really fair."
Adcock and Bankier have their last-chance saloon against
22nd-ranked Germans Michael Fuchs and Birgit Michels when the
badminton continues on Sunday, while world number five Saina
Nehwal, India's greatest hope of a maiden badminton medal,
starts her women's singles campaign against Swiss Sabrina
(Editing by Justin Palmer)