World No 1 Tai Tzu Ying had never reached beyond the quarter-final at the major badminton tournaments (Olympic Games / World Championships) before her run to the final at Tokyo 2020. While a first medal is still sweet, arguably the most skilled player of her generation, was left wondering if her last shot at a major title has come and gone.

China’s Chen Yufei beat Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying 21-18, 19-21, 21-18 to return the title to China, giving the badminton powerhouse its 20th Olympic gold medal in the sport. It was an epic final. Not unlike the one PV Sindhu had lost five years back against Carolina Marin in Rio de Janeiro and won the silver, as well won hearts with her gesture to pick the Spaniard up and hug her at the end of the match.

On Sunday in Tokyo, Sindhu defeated He Bingjiao to win bronze before the final between Chen and Tai. The Indian later found the time to offer a shoulder of support to Tai this time, the player who had defeated Sindhu in the semifinal a day earlier, as the women’s singles event came to an end.

In a post on Instagram in her native language, Tai posted the following message (translated with the help of Google):

I stepped on this dream stage for the third time, and finally made it to the finals, but I couldn’t stand on the highest podium. There is always a little regret, but imperfections always exist, so I have the motivation to pursue better result. Maybe I won’t have another chance to participate in the Olympics, but I have achieved this goal, but it is not so perfect. I just want to tell myself: Tai Tzu Ying, you are great! 

Thank you all for supporting me. The result is always cruel and I can only accept it, but I tried my best. Thank you to everyone who helped us during this period. Thank you to the representative office in Japan who sent a secretary in the hotel to help us with various issues. Thank you to my team.

During the epidemic, we can’t go home together and train for a long time. Thank you for everything

Share a little story. After the match, I was satisfied with my performance. Later, Sindhu ran over to hold me, held my face, and told me: ;I know you are uncomfortable, and you have been very good. Okay, but today is not your game’. Then she held me in his arms and said: She knows all about it. That kind of sincere encouragement made me cry directly... It’s really sad because I really worked hard.

Thank you again for your support and encouragement. Thank you for walking with me till now.

— via Tai Tzu Ying / Instagram

For Chen, it was a proud moment to put China back on top of the podium.

“I’m extremely happy to extend the honour,” said Chen, who sank to her knees and roared to the rafters when Tai scuffed a shot into the net to end a marathon final rally.

“The Chinese women’s badminton team has had problems since 2016. But today I stood on top of the podium, and this is recognition of China’s women’s team.”

Taiwan had bagged its first ever Olympic badminton medal the previous night, claiming gold in the men’s doubles. But world number two Chen ensured there would be no repeat in women’s singles, nipping Tai’s comeback attempt in the bud.

“I lost the second game and that was a shame because I had the lead,” said Chen.

“I was a bit rushed and I made a few mistakes, but going into the third game I told myself to be composed and start from scratch.”

Tai said she would consider her future after failing to win the gold.

“This was a goal I set myself,” said the 27-year-old.

“I worked hard towards it, and now the competition is over I will take a rest first, and then take it from there.”