Rajeev Bagga‘s quest for gold faltered at the final hurdle when he was narrowly beaten (16-21, 21-17, 20-22) by Artemy Karpov of Russia.
The result is Bagga’s first defeat to any Deaf competitor in 20 years of competition and his silver medal follows Singles gold at the previous five Deaflympics.
Bagga was a point away from glory at 20-19. But the Russian was returning Rajeev’s smashes strongly and made it 20-all, before edging ahead to 21.
On the vital point, Karpov played a light drop serve which Bagga left, and it ooked to have landed out. But the umpire judged that the shuttlecock had fallen onto the line and Karpov fell to his knees in triumph.
Karpov – on a reputed €100,000 to win the title – took the first set when a netted Bagga backhand gave him a match point, which he took.
Immediately after the set, Team GB Badminton Manager Janet Thompson had to stride onto court to ask for a third Russian official to be removed, as only two are permitted courtside.
In the second set, Bagga went from 11-15 down to 18-15 ahead and took the set five points later when he had Karpov straining and failing with a shot from the floor.
The quality of the badminton on show was superb and the two players exchanged the early points with some fierce rallies in the final set.
Karpov stayed in touch with Bagga throughout the last set and it really was very close to call. The British fans in the gallery were about to explode when Bagga reached 20 points but it was not to be.
Rajeev – who first won gold in Christchurch 1989 and carried his run through Sofia 1993, Copenhagen 1997. Rome 2001 and Melbourne 2005 – afterwards donated his silver medal to Lithuanian competitor Tomas DovyDaitis who had badly damaged his ankle in competition.
As one onlooker commented, “Rajeev may have lost the gold but he still has a heart of gold”.
Team GB Badminton were in unison afterwards to point out that 22 year-old Karpov had been extremely well supported by the Russian structure. A five-month training programme was fully funded and his salary was understood to be covered during that period.
There was also disappointment in the Men’s Doubles as Bagga and Carl Sadler lost their Bronze medal play-off match to a Korean pairing Lee and Sin in three sets.
Serena Blackburn made a late surge up the field to bag a bronze for GB in the Women’s Marathon.
Serena had finished third in the most recent World Deaf Athletics Championships and proved that result was no fluke by passing three runners in the last five kilometres to move from sixth place up to the bronze position.
Serena had left the Team GB base before 4am for the 6am start outside Taipei but this inconvenience was worth enduring to be on the podium.
Team GB Athletics Manager Brian Kokoruwe was delighted with Serena’s “amazing determination” and the medal caps a good haul for his squad, who have two silvers and two bronzes from Taipei.
Timothy Stones was one of the runners to complete the Men’s Marathon. A number of runners dropped out in the punishing heat and humidity.
Brian K explained that Timothy had travelled to Taipei from his base in South Africa, “where it is a completely different climate at the moment, so he’s done really well to stick it out in today’s conditions”.
Team GB continued their recent good form to finish top of the 9-16th play-offs. In their last game of the Deaflympics, the 2005 Champions beat Spain 3-0.
An own goal set GB on their way and further strikes from Jamie Clarke and Chris Beech sealed a comfortable win and left the squad thinking of what might have been.
Team GB completed their matches today (Andrew Calloway narrowly losing 3-2) but the squad will put Taipei 2009 down to experience as they look ahead to Athens 2013.