By Yoo Jee-ho
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- Once disgraced in an Olympic match-throwing scandal, South Korean badminton player Jung Kyung-eun has redeemed herself with a bronze medal at the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Four years removed from disqualification at the London Olympics, Jung teamed up with Shin Seung-chan to grab bronze in the women's doubles over Tang Yuanting and Yu Yang of China on Thursday by 2-0 (21-8, 21-17).
As fate would have it, Yu was one of the principle figures in the 2012 scandal, which saw two South Korean women's doubles teams and a team each from China and Indonesia disqualified for trying to lose preliminary matches to ensure favorable draws in the knockout phase.
Jung's partner at the time was Kim Ha-na, who played in the mixed doubles here with Ko Sung-hyun and lost in the quarterfinals.
Jung, who was suspended for a year over the scandal, has tiptoed around the issue. She refers to it only as "some unfortunate incident" from the past.
Moments after her victory, Jung said the scandal did weigh on her mind, though it wasn't the only thing.
"There was some unfortunate incident four years ago, and we were the only team left with a chance to win a medal," she said. "We both felt quite a bit of pressure. We tried to cheer each other up, and managed to play better than we did in the semifinals."
South Korean badminton players Shin Seung-chan (L) and Jung Kyung-eun embrace each other after clinching bronze in the women's doubles at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics on Aug. 18, 2016. (Yonhap)
Jung was referring to South Korea's futility in badminton in Rio. She and Shin were the only South Korean players to even make it this far in the tournament. Four other doubles teams, including the men's world No. 1, Lee Yong-dae and Yoo Yeon-seong, lost in the quarters. Two singles players, Sung Ji-hyun for women and Son Wan-ho for me, also bowed out of the quarterfinals.
South Korea was in danger of getting shut out of badminton medals for the first time -- badminton became a medal sport in 1992 -- but Jung and Shin saved them from such ignominy.
Jung and Shin didn't look particularly sharp on Tuesday in their semifinals loss to Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, the world No. 1 from Japan. It left many to believe they wouldn't stand much of a chance against Tang and Yu, but it was the Chinese who looked sluggish on Thursday.
"In the semifinals, I was so exhausted that I had no idea how I even played," Jung said. "The quarterfinals match was tough, and to come right back for the semifinals was quite challenging. We couldn't play our game, but today, I think the Chinese were nervous."
Jung and Shin, four years younger, have been partners for about a year. Switching partners that close to an Olympics could be risky, but both players said things worked out well because they complement each other.
"Because we didn't have a lot of time before the Olympics, we just concentrated that much harder to prepare," Jung said. "Seung-chan is great around the net and I usually get my points from the back."
Shin said she was grateful to have salvaged a bronze medal after what the entire badminton team has gone through in Rio.
"To be honest, I am not good enough to be standing here now," she said. "Kyung-eun is a world-class player, and I've often thought I didn't deserve to be playing with her. She's been very encouraging and supportive. All I've had to do was follow her lead."