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Olympics: Japan's Watanabe, Higashino win badminton mixed doubles bronze

Japan's Yuta Watanabe, right, and Arisa Higashino celebrate after winning their mixed doubles badminton bronze medal match against Hong Kong's Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet at the Summer Olympics, on July 30, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino gave Japan its first ever badminton mixed doubles Olympic medal on Friday, when they captured the bronze in the third-place playoff at the Tokyo Games.

    Watanabe and Higashino secured a spot on the podium by defeating Hong Kong pair Tang Chun-man and Tse Ying-suet 21-17, 23-21 at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza.

    "At the end it came down to who was the most determined to win," said the 24-year-old Watanabe, who also became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic badminton medal.

    "We lost yesterday (in the semifinals) but took time to reflect and were able to turn it around. There is a huge difference between winning and not winning a medal and we are proud to have won a medal on this big stage at the Tokyo Olympics."

    Higashino, 24, who also partnered Watanabe to the bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships in Basel, Switzerland, said, "I am so happy. We have both had a lot of tough experiences and there were times when we weren't winning."

    "The three of us including (Watanabe's men's doubles partner Hiroyuki) Endo-san have really made a big effort and this medal is for the three of us."

    Japanese interest in the badminton competition ended later in the day as Akane Yamaguchi was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the women's singles. Nozomi Okuhara also failed to reach the last four.

    Yamaguchi had won all three of her group stage matches en route to the quarterfinals but she finally met her match and was beaten in straight games by India's Pusarla V. Sindhu 21-13, 22-20.

    "I felt more pressure and was more nervous than I normally am," said Yamaguchi, the 2018 world bronze medalist. "But so many people told me just to try hard for myself and I was able to enjoy playing more than I did yesterday."

    "I really wanted to respond with a good result and it really hurts that I wasn't able to do that."

    Okuhara came up short in her bid to improve on the Rio Olympic bronze medal she won five years ago, losing 13-21, 21-13, 21-14 to China's He Bingjiao.

    "There have been highs and lows over the last five years and I am happy that I have had a lot of support from people throughout," said Okuhara.

    "I wanted to give them something back through badminton and although I could not do that with results, I hope they felt how hard I was trying until the end," said the 26-year-old former world champion.

    "The Olympics is a difficult event to enjoy but I am so happy that I was able to stand here on this stage."

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