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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 August, 2004, 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK
Mixed emotions for British pair
By Phil Gordos
BBC Sport in Athens

Gail Emms and Nathan Robertson watch their Chinese opponents celebrate victory
Diplomatic relations between Great Britain and China were almost severed in the Goudi Olympic Hall on Thursday.

As Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms aimed for badminton gold in the mixed doubles, they were tripped up by the stalling tactics of Ling Gao and Jun Zhang.

Gao and Zhang know what it takes to win an Olympic title, having finished on top of the podium in Sydney four years ago.

And they put that valuable experience to good use as they recovered from 11-8 down in the deciding game to retain their crown.

Robinson and Emms refused to be drawn into a war of words with their conquerors, insisting they may have adopted the same ploy had they been trailing.

But their coach, Andy Wood, was a bit more vocal.

"It's up to the umpire to control those sorts of things, but it's going to happen," he told the BBC Sport website.

"If a pair suddenly gets a roll of points you have to do everything in your power - within the laws hopefully - to break that momentum.

"Obviously they were trying all they could."

Boos rang out from the British fans when Zhang began querying every call.

And Emms eventually lost her cool when the Chinese left-hander wanted to change the shuttle after messing up a return.

Emms recovered her composure and, with Robertson's help, looked on the verge of a major upset after moving to within four points of victory.

British fans cheer on Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms in the mixed doubles badminton final
The support was absolutely fantastic
GB badminton coach Andy Wood
But the momentum switched again, the Chinese winning seven of the next eight points to deny Britain their first Olympic gold in the sport.

"I am very, very happy and proud of them for winning the silver medal, but we had a small chance that I wish we had just taken advantage of," said Wood.

"I wish we had been a bit braver and been a bit more positive but that's not to be critical. They did everything in their power to get the win."

After all the pre-match expectation, the final looked as though it would be over inside half an hour after the Brits were humbled 15-1 in the opening game.

But Emms and Robertson dug deep to level the clash, which eventually lasted a thrilling 93 minutes.

Wood only had 90 seconds to talk to his charges after watching them get blown away by their opponents' speed and power in that first game.

But whatever he said clearly had an effect.

"The Chinese were outstanding. I just hoped they wouldn't be able to continue at that level while we needed to get some control of the game," said Wood.

"We needed to find a way back into the game - and we did."

The British fans also played a key role in the revival, roaring every point Emms and Robertson won and drowning out the chants of their Chinese counterparts.

"The support was absolutely fantastic," said Wood.

"It's clear the achievements of Emms and Robertson have taken the UK by storm and everyone's got passionately involved.

"That's exactly what we want for sport in our country."

An Olympic gold would have done wonders for badminton's profile in Britain but silver is still a major shot in the arm.

And Wood hasn't ruled out going one better in 2008.

"Beijing seems an eternity away right now," said Wood.

"It's been a long, four-year campaign, so we'll have a think about our goals and targets when we've had chance to draw breath."

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