With a full slate of matches beginning bright and early Thursday morning, the eyes of the Badminton world will first turn to Lin Dan, the Chinese superstar who is looking for his third-consecutive gold medal. Lin commences the men’s singles tournament with a Group E match vs. Austria’s David Obernosterer at 7:25 AM ET.
Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, who won the silver medal in Beijing and London after losing to Lin both times, begins his mission of dethronement at 8:35 AM ET vs. Suriname’s Soren Opti in a Group A contest. Lee will likely be participating in his last Olympic games so expect a strong showing from the get-go for the world’s current #1 ranked player.
At 9:10 AM ET, Chen Long, the world’s current #2 ranked player and a player who many believe will be Lin’s successor, starts his tournament vs. Sri Linka’s Niluka Karunaratne in a Group P duel.
On the women’s side of things, the world’s #1 ranked player, Spain’s Carolina Marin, will look to culminate her extraordinary rise to the top of the sport with a gold medal in Rio. Marin kicks off her campaign with a Group A match vs. Nanna Vainio from Finland at 10:55 AM ET. After losing to China’s Li Xuerui (the eventual gold medal winner) in the London group phase, the Spaniard catapulted in the world rankings after winning both the 2014 and 2015 Badminton World Championships.
Jamie Subandhi and Phillip Chew initiate Team USA’s badminton tournament with a Group D mixed doubles match at 8:35 AM ET vs. Kim Ha Na and Ko Sung Hyun from South Korea. Chew, a 22 year old from Orange, California, and Subandhi, a 26 year old from Westminster, California, were the highest ranked Americans in any even but will struggle to win hardware in Rio. Both are appearing in their first Olympic Games.
In addition to mixed doubles, Chew will also be participating in the men’s doubles event with partner Sattawat Pongnairat. They take on China’s Fu Haifeng, who won gold in London, and his new Olympic partner, Zhang Nan at 2:55 PM ET in a Group B match. Sattawat and Phillip are making their joint Olympic debut in Rio and won gold at the 2015 Pan American Games but are unlikely to win a medal in Rio.
21-year old Iris Wang, also competing in her first Olympic games, plays a women’s singles match vs. Belgium’s Lianne Tan at 6:55 PM ET. Wang won a bronze medal for Team USA at the 2015 Pan American Games but is unlikely to compete for a medal at her first Olympics.
Rounding out Team USA’s day 1 action is Paula Lynn Obanana and Eva Lee who will be competing in the women’s doubles tournament. They take on Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan from South Korea at 7:30 PM ET in a Group B clash.
The women’s doubles tournament, marred by controversy in London 2012 due to players purposely losing matches in order to gain an easier opponent in the next round, has a full of contingent of very strong teams. Lee and Obanana, who barely missed the mark to qualify for London, will most likely not be a threat to their opponents in Rio.