Canada’s Li wins badminton gold in Glasgow

Michelle Li captured Canada's first ever women's singles gold medal in badminton at the Commonwealth Games (Andrew Vaughan/CP).

GLASGOW — Michelle Li captured Canada’s first ever women’s singles gold medal in badminton at the Commonwealth Games on Sunday.

Then she lay down on the court, a smile of relief stretched across her face.

"I think it was just everything kind of collapsed, all the tension and everything, trying to keep focused the whole week, and finally finished the very last (match) of the tournament, and I could finally relax and I could celebrate," Li said.

"It was just all so overwhelming, and I think it was just incredible. So I had to lie down."

The 22-year-old from Markham, Ont., dispatched Kirsty Gilmour of Scotland in just 38 minutes, winning in straight sets 21-14, 21-7 on the final day of the Games.

Canada hasn’t won badminton gold at the Games since Claire Backhouse and Johanne Falardeau took the women’s doubles title in 1982. No Canadian had ever won a women’s singles title.

"I set a goal for myself to definitely try to medal," Li said. "I knew there were a lot of tough opponents, and I knew it was not going to be easy, so I made myself focus on each match individually, one at a time, so I never really thought ‘I have to get the gold medal.’ I tried to stay away from that pressure, so I just had to focus on my game."

Li and Alex Bruce narrowly missed a women’s doubles bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics after qualifying for the semifinals.

Li, ranked No. 19 in the world, said her gold-medal performance on Sunday topped even that result.

"The Olympics was for doubles, so it was a totally different event, and I’ve never had the same results for singles, and this actually means a lot because I can do it in singles," she said. "It’s nice to have been in the Olympic semifinals for doubles, but I think now I’m focused on singles more, I’m really happy I got a gold at Commonwealth.

"It’s definitely a huge stepping stone."

Li, who was born in Hong Kong, won two gold medals at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

She said this victory sets her up nicely for the world championships in two weeks in Copenhagen.

"The competition definitely will be just as intense, and maybe even more intense," Li said. "Every round is going to be tough and I just hope I can go through every round like how I went through them here."

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