China, South Korea bag titles at All England Open
BIRMINGHAM, England, March 19 (Reuters) - Li Shi Feng defeated fellow Chinese shuttler Shi Yu Qi to win the men's singles title at the All England Open badminton championships on Sunday, while South Korea's An Se Young smashed her way to the women's title.
The all-Chinese men's final ended 26-24 21-5, beginning neck-and-neck in the first game and ending in a decisive victory for 23-year-old Li in the second.
"Before this week I didn't expect to reach the finals let alone win the title," said Li, who started playing badminton when he was six and considers China's Lin Dan as his badminton hero. "I want to thank all the fans and my coach."
Losing compatriot Shi Yu Qi told reporters: "I made a few mistakes -- I know the gap was big."
The All England event, with more than 155 matches and over 50 hours of badminton, contributes towards potential Olympics qualification, with rankings announced after April deciding which players will go to the Paris Games in 2024.
China has dominated Olympic badminton since the sport made its debut at the Games in Barcelona in 1992, with 47 medals including 20 golds.
In the women's singles, to the thunderous roar of her name, South Korea's An beat Tokyo 2020 Olympics gold medallist Chen Yu Fei of China 21-17 10-21 21-19.
An beat 25-year-old Chen in a fierce battle in the women's final that at times had Chen on her knees and An skidding across the court on her stomach more than once to make a shot.
"I'm so tremendously happy," said An, 21, who had knocked Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan out in the semi-finals on Saturday.
"Every game that has given me experience has led me to this one... This is a historical moment in my career - this is an opportunity to grow."
It was touch-and-go for An in the second half of the final game, with Chen pressing with aggressive smashes and smart backhands.
In an all-South Korean women's doubles match, Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong defeated Baek Ha Na and Lee So Hee 21-5 21-12.
China beat South Korea in the mixed doubles final 21-16 16-21 21-12, while Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto won the all-Indonesia men's doubles final 21-17 21-14.
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