LONDON (Reuters) - Disgraced Chinese badminton player Yu Yang has quit the sport after being disqualified from the Olympics along with seven other women for deliberately trying to lose to secure an easier draw in the knockout rounds.
The debacle has cast a shadow over the action, which will see Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte square off for the final time in the pool, with Phelps, once again, vying to become the first male swimmer to win the same individual event at three Olympics.
The sight of four doubles teams spraying hopeless shots into the net and beyond the lines disgusted a jeering crowd of 4,800 packed into Wembley Arena to see badminton's finest and forced the sport's governing body to kick them out.
As top seeds, the Chinese duo would have stood a good chance of adding to China's medal tally. They already head the table with 17 golds after five days of competition, ahead of the United States on 12 and South Korea on six.
Hosts Britain are hoping the rowers and cyclists will build on the two golds won on Wednesday that lifted the spirits of a nation starting to doubt whether any of the faces of the Games would manage to convert the dreams into a podium topping finish.
With the headline writers finally able to let rip, Britain's newspapers went into overdrove. Tabloid headlines blared "Golden wonder", "Gold rush", "GOOOOOOOOOOOLD!" at Bradley Wiggins storming the cycling time trial and rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning obliterating the field in the women's pair.
In contrast, Chinese officials have told their players to make a public apology after the antics of the duo, two Korean teams and an Indonesian pairing trying to take advantage of a change in the rules were beamed around the globe.
"This is my last competition. Goodbye Badminton World Federation (BWF), goodbye my beloved badminton," Yu wrote on her Tencent microblog. "We ... only chose to use the rules to abandon the match."
"You have heartlessly shattered our dreams," Yu added. "It's that simple, not complicated at all. But this is unforgivable."
SPIRIT OF SPORT
The shockwaves from Tuesday evening's badminton debacle have reverberated round the Games, putting the focus squarely on match officials and calling the spirit of sport into question.
Olympic judges and referees came under fire on Wednesday with one boxer accusing them of "a fix", another successfully appealing a loss and even boxing great Lennox Lewis questioning some of their calls.
Iran's Ali Mazaheri cried foul when the heavyweight was disqualified after being warned three times for persistent holding against Cuban Jose Larduet Gomez despite leading by two points going into the second round.
"It was a fix. I could have got a bronze easily if it hadn't been for that," an irate Mazaheri, who walked out of the ring before the decision was officially announced, told reporters through a translator.
Earlier, China's Ding Ning sobbed and also accused an umpire of ruining her Olympic dream when she lost the table tennis gold medal to compatriot Li Xiaoxia after being punished with penalty points in a tense and tetchy encounter.
The gladiatorial combat will resume on Thursday, when the track cycling action gets under way and swimmers Phelps and Lochte slug it out for one last time in the evening.
The two Americans teamed up on Tuesday in the squad that crushed the rest of the field in the 4x200 meters freestyle relay to give Phelps his 19th Olympic medal, an all-time record.
DUEL IN THE POOL
The duo now go head to head in the 200 individual medley - a final tantalizing clash before Phelps retires.
Lochte drew first blood in London by winning the 400 version on Saturday, pushing Phelps into fourth place.
Phelps is bidding again for the elusive feat of becoming the first male swimmer to win the same event at three successive Olympics.
"We love racing against each other," he said. "Neither one of us likes to lose. I like to say we bring out the best in one another."
Olympic track cycling action gets under way with Britain's Victoria Pendleton, a nine-times world champion, renewing her battle with Australia's Anna Meares and hoping to end her career on a high on home soil.
With Germany holding the world titles in both team sprints, the hosts will be hard pressed to repeat their showing in Beijing where they won seven of 10 possible golds.
But they will draw inspiration from Wiggins who followed victory in last month's Tour de France by running away with the time trial, 42 seconds ahead of Germany's Tony Martin.
Casting a shadow over the start of the action in the velodrome, which is bound to draw thousands of fans buoyed by Britain's emergence as a cycling superpower, a cyclist was killed in a collision with an Olympic media shuttle bus in east London on Wednesday evening.
The 28-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Police arrested a man, aged in his mid-60s, on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. He was released on bail the pending further inquiries until late August.
Shuttle buses have been transporting thousands of journalists covering the Games between the Olympic Park in Stratford and central London.