China has been the leading force in badminton for decades, but for the first time since 1995, it did not lead the medal table at the BWF World Championships.
Instead it was Japan which took the top honors at the Worlds in Basel (SUI), winning two titles and placing finalists in four of the five divisions, to earn six total medals to five for China.
The last time that China did not lead the medal count was back in 1995, when Denmark won the most medals. Japan’s effort ends a streak of 15 consecutive Worlds in which China had been on top.
In Basel, Kento Momota, Japan’s no. 1-ranked Singles star, showed his class by dispatching Dane Anders Antonsen, 21-9 and 21-3 to reaffirm his status. Japan also got a win in the all-Japan women’s Doubles final, as Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara edged Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota in a tense match by the thinnest of margins: 21-11, 20-22, 23-21.
India’s V. Sindhu Pursarla ended six years of frustration with her first Worlds gold medal after winning four prior medals – two silver, two bronze – in the World Championships. She defeated Japan’s 2017 World Champion, Nozomi Okuhara, 21-7, 21-7, to complete a brilliant tournament that included wins over Beiwen Zhang (USA), Tzu Ying-Tai (TPE) in the quarters and Yufei Chen of China in the semis.
“I’m so happy” Pusarla said afterwards. “I was expecting this for a long time. It’s definitely a proud moment for me and for India. A lot of people have been waiting. This is my answer to the people who have asked me questions over and over. I just wanted to answer with my racket and with this win – that’s all.
“I was dominating. It was important for me to be very alert and every point really mattered to me. I tried to get every point even though I was leading by a large margin. I was prepared for everything. At times, I was nervous but I was determined to finish it off.”
Momota, Matsumoto/Nagahara and Mixed Doubles winners Siwei Zheng/Yaqiong Huang (CHN) all defended their championships from 2018. Summaries:
BWF World Championships
Basel (SUI) ~ 19-25 August 2019
(Full results here)
Men/Singles: 1. Kento Momota (JPN); 2. Anders Antonsen (DEN); 3. Kantaphon Wangcharoen (THA) and Sai Praneeth (IND). Semis: Momota d. Praneeth, 21-13, 21-8; Antonsen d. Wangcharoen, 21-15, 21-10. Final: Momota d. Antonsen, 21-9, 21-3.
Men/Doubles: 1. Mohamamd Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan (INA); 2. Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi (JPN); 3. Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto (INA) and Junhui Li/Yuchen Liu (CHN). Semis: Ahsan/Setiawan d. Alfian/Ardianto, 21-16, 15-21, 21-10; Hoki/Kobayashi d. Li/Liu, 21-19, 21-13. Final: Ahsan/Setiawan d. Hoki/Kobayashi, 25-23, 9-21, 21-15.
Women/Singles: 1. V. Sindhu Pursarla (IND); 2. Nozomi Okuhara (JPN); 3. Ratchanok Intanon (THA) and Yufei Chen (CHN). Semis: Okuhara d. Intanon, 17-21, 21-18, 21-15; Pusarla d. Chen, 21-7; 21.14. Final: Pusarla d. Okuhara, 21-7, 21-7.
Women/Doubles: 1. Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara (JPN); 2. Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota (JPN); 3. Yue Du/Yinhui Lu (CHN) and Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu (INA).
Semis: Fukushima/Hirota d. Du/Lu, 21-11, 21-17; Matsumoto/Nagahara d. Polii/Rahayu, 21-12, 21-19. Final: Matsumoto/Nagahara d. Fukushima/Hirota, 21-11, 20-22, 23-21.
Mixed Doubles: 1. Siwei Zheng/Yaqiong Huang (CHN); 2. Dechapol Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA); 3. Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino (JPN) and Yilyu Wang/Dongping Huang (CHN). Semis: Zheng/Huang d. Watanabe/Higashino, 21-11, 21-15; Puavaranukroh/Taerattanachai d. Wang/Huang, 21-19, 21-13. Final: Zheng/Huang d. Puavarannukroh/Taerattanachai, 21-8, 21-12.