Chan boosts Olympic argument with easy win

NICOLA ABERCROMBIE
Last updated 13:24 27/02/2012
Michelle Chan
JOHN HAWKINS/The Southland Times
LONDON CALLING: Michelle Chan kept her Olympic hopes alive with victory at the Oceania badminton championships.

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Top Kiwi badminton player Michelle Chan has dominated the Oceania Championships and strengthened her case for Olympic selection.

The continental tournament had valuable Olympic ranking points on offer, which was capitalised on by Chan - New Zealand's only hope of making the badminton draw in London.

She reached the final after accounting for compatriot Anna Rankin 21-13 21-12, in the semifinal.

That set up a championship encounter with Australian Verdet Kessler, with 5000 ranking points the prize.

While Kessler put up a fight in the second game, top seed Chan was too strong, winning the vital ranking points and the championship 21-10 21-17.

Chan now faces a battle to make it to London, with the qualifying period finishing at the end of April.

She has already qualified for the Olympics according to Badminton World Federation standards, but the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) requires her to be ranked inside the world top 24.

Badminton New Zealand chief executive Nicki Martin said when the new world rankings are released on Thursday, Chan would likely be ranked around 47, up from her current No 74.

"Michelle has a couple more tournaments to go but I'd say she will probably end up top 40," said Martin, who will submit a special consideration case to the NZOC for Chan.

Chan has a strong case on paper - her ranking is climbing and given that she receives no government funding, she has exceeded expectations to reach the position she has.

Martin, however, suspects it will be difficult to convince the NZOC.

"We actually applied last Olympics for Michelle when she was in the same position and they rejected her but accepted (Kiwi tennis No 1) Marina Erakovic who was in a similar position."

While not in the race for Olympic selection, the Kiwi men also performed well at the Oceania Champs, with No 1 seed Michael Fowke squaring off against compatriot James Eunson in the final.

Eunson managed to hold off the higher-ranked Fowke, winning a close final 21-19 21-15 to complete the singles sweep for New Zealand.

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