Sogaard and Olsen Prevail in Mixed
by Mike Grossman (from a report filed by Deo and Mary Fontanilla)

December 8, 1996 (New Shuttlenws) - Olympic badminton men's doubles gold medalists Ricky Subagja and Rexy Mainaky of Indonesia overwhelmed their Malaysian archrivals and Olympic silver medalists Cheah Soon Kit and Yap Kim Hock in today's championship match at the World Grand Prix Finals in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia.

The Indonesians were too quick on offense and defense today. They grabbed an early, untouchable lead in the first game against an off-form Cheah-Yap combination and reached game point quickly at 14-4.

After Ricky and Rexy had taken the first game 15-4, the Malaysians tried to stage a comeback in the second. But, unlike their previous encounter in the round-robin stage where Cheah and Yap took advantage of a tiring Rexy Mainaky and were able to race away to an early 10-0 lead, the Indonesians were just as quick as in the first game and kept the match under control to win 15-9.

The match did not live up to the standard of play that the two pairs had set in their Olympic gold medal match, rated by many who have seen it as one of the best ever played, or even their round-robin match earlier in the tourney which was decided in a setting or overtime in the third game.

In an exciting mixed doubles finale, the Grand Prix top-rated pair of Michael Sogaard and Rikke Olsen from Denmark beat back the strong challenge from Tri Kusheryanto and Minarti Timur of Indonesia, currently ranked first in the world.

The two mixed pairs battled it out in a match that featured many long and exciting rallies, with Kusheryanto darting all over the court and hitting his favorite deceptive jumping strokes and attacking at the net whenever he could. Sogaard did his part to more than counter Kusheryanto with smart tactical play and his all-court coverage on defense as well as his fast crosscourt drives and powerful point-scoring smashes.

Sogaard was ably supported at the net and on defense by the tallish Rikke Olsen and the Danish pair took both games 15-10 and 15-11 to claim the World Grand Prix Finals mixed doubles crown for Denmark and for themselves.

In the women's doubles finals, Olympic gold medalists Ge Fei and Gu Jun of China gave Eliza and Rosiana Zelin of Indonesia a sound beating 15-4 and 15-4.

In another development, Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen of Denmark was declared the male badminton personality of 1996 by STAR-TV, the prime telecaster of the Grand Prix circuit. Ge Fei and Gu Jun of China were declared joint female badminton personalities of 1996.