Michelle Li wins Pan Am gold as Canada wins four badminton medals on day
MARKHAM, Ont. — Canadian teammates Michelle Li and Rachel Honderich didn't change their pre-game routines knowing they'd be facing each other for Pan Am gold on Thursday.
The roommates and good friends enjoyed breakfast together, worked out at the gym and then travelled together to the venue. It was very much like a usual practice day except this time the stakes were much higher.
Instead of heading down the road to their nearby training facility, they took to centre court at a packed Atos Markham Pan Am/Parapan Am Centre. It was there that Li turned from friend to foe, topping her doubles partner 21-15, 21-9 to successfully defend her Pan Am singles title.
"It is tough to have to beat a friend," Li said. "To see her lose, it's not something I want. But I guess we're both mature enough to know that when we're on court, it's for yourself."
It was a four-medal day for the Canadian badminton team.
Canada's Toby Ng and Alex Bruce won silver in mixed doubles after dropping a 21-9, 21-23, 21-12 decision to Americans Phillip Chew and Jamie Subandhi. In the men's singles final, Kevin Cordon of Guatemala beat Canada's Andrew d'Souza 21-13, 21-14.
The capacity crowd cheered both players equally in the women's final. The 23-year-old Li is from Markham while her 19-year-old teammate is a Toronto native.
Honderich matched her more experienced opponent over the first half of the opening game as both players settled in. Honderich delivered a beautiful cross-court drop to take an 11-10 lead into the break.
When they returned to the court, Honderich made a number of unforced errors and Li started to pull away. Li started to use a more attacking style and forced Honderich to play a defensive game.
"It's tough because we both know each other's games so well," Honderich said.
Li didn't appear to be hampered physically despite wearing support wraps on her right leg to help with quadriceps and Achilles tendon injuries. She seemed to float around the court with her usual fluidity and regularly made the hometown crowd gasp with her remarkable retrieving skills.
"I just tried to move her to four corners before attacking," Honderich said. "But she's a very strong player so you can't start attacking too soon or she'll put you out of position. So I tried to move her around the court as much as I could but she played really well."
Li won Pan Am gold four years ago at the 2011 Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. She also won women's doubles gold that year with Bruce.
Both Li and Honderich kept their emotions in check throughout the match. There was only the occasional fist pump as both players let the crowd do the hooting and hollering.
It was remarkably different scene in the mixed doubles encounter as the Canada-U.S. rivalry was renewed. The rallies were fast and both teams used a wide variety of shots and styles.
Ng, from Vancouver, and Bruce, from Toronto, let out roars when the shuttle hit the net tape and fell on their opponents' side to set up a game point. They pulled out the game in extra points but couldn't repeat the effort in the deciding game.
D'Souza, meanwhile, had the partisan crowd on his side in the late match but couldn't use it to his advantage. Cordon was relentless in his attack and kept the Ottawa player on his heels.
Canada won six badminton medals in all over the week. Li and Honderich won doubles bronze while Bruce and Phyllis Chan of Vancouver also took third place after losing their semifinal.
The Canadian Press