London, July 30 (CNA) Taiwan's badminton "golden duo" of Chien Yu-chin and Cheng Wen-hsing came agonizingly close to clinching a place in the Olympic women's doubles quarterfinals in London Monday, only to fall to the verge of elimination.
Chien and Cheng lost to Jwala Gutt and Ashwini Ponnappa from India, 25-23, 16-21, 21-18 in their second of three group stage matches, and will need a convincing win over the top team in their group -- Reika Kakiiwa and Mizuki Fujii of Japan -- to have any chance of advancing to the eight-team knockout stage.
The Taiwanese team had split two tightly contested matches against the Indian duo over the past year, beating them in three games in Germany in March after losing to them 21-18, 21-18 at the World Championships in August 2011, and Monday's battle was equally close.
Chien and Cheng took a late lead in the first game, only to squander three game points, a pivotal moment in the match.
"All I can say is that when we reached 22, it's really too bad that I missed my serve," said a frustrated Cheng, who admitted that the team played too passively when it was ahead.
After rebounding to win the second game, the Taiwanese pulled to within 19-18 in the final game, and Cheng had a clear shot close to the net to even the score. Instead, she misplayed the shuttlecock, sending it into the net.
The match -- and perhaps the team's Olympic challenge -- ended a point later.
"The shuttlecock was very close to the net, and I was afraid my racket would hit it, so I pulled the racket back too quickly," Cheng said.
Liao Kuo-mao, the head coach of Taiwan's Olympic badminton team, said it was a match Chien and Cheng should have won but didn't, leaving him very disappointing.
"We made too many unforced errors," he said. "If we had taken the first set, we would probably be the ones who are happy now."
Chien and Cheng were ranked No. 1 in the world in women's doubles as recently as April 2011, but a run of bad form over the past year sent their ranking tumbling to 11th in June, and they were not seen as medal favorites entering the event.
Still, after defeating Shinta Mulia Sari and Lei Yao from Singapore in their group stage opener, making the final eight was within reach. Now they'll need an unlikely victory over the Japanese.
"We don't have any pressure on us. We just have to give it our best. Even if the result is that we lose, all we can do is accept it," Cheng said.
(By Lung Po-an and Elizabeth Hsu)