Scott Evans loses badminton last 16... and the shirt is off again

‘I’d really worked hard to get in my best shape possible for this tournament’ - Rio exit

Yes the shirt did come off again, only this time not in celebration, but in a sort of salute of the Irish support who'd witnessed Scott Evans lose his last-16 men's badminton singles contest inside the Riocentro Arena last night.

That shirt was well drenched in sweat anyway, as Evans wrestled for every point against Viktor Axelsen, the towering and utterly imposing 22 year-old from Odense, in Denmark - who eventually won out in straight sets, 21-16, 21-12.

Indeed on a few occasions Evans ended up on his knees, or indeed on the flat of his chest, in his fight to save some points. He had trailed the second game 19-7, before winning the next five points without reply, much to the delight of the Irish support - rallying him further on with chants of “Scotty-Scotty-Scotty.”

For Evans it was always going to be that sort of battle. Axelsen is already ranked number four in the world, bronze medallist from the 2014 World Championships staged at home in Denmark, also winning a European title in La Roche-sur-Yon in France earlier in the season.


Evans however had come in with confidence soaring, become the first Irish man to win a badminton match at the Olympics, beating the higher ranked German 12th seed Marc Zwiebler, following that up by beating Brazil's hometown favourite Ygor Coelho De Oliveira.

The first game then suitably tense, lasting just over 20 minutes: Evans won the first point from his serve, but was soon chasing a small deficit, as Axelsen went 5-2 up, before Evans levelled it again at 6-6.

Axelsen was the complete package, with the greater power, reach, and height, although Evans made him call on all of it. He slipped behind again, 16-12, twice contesting calls in the game, losing one but winning the other. He rallied again at the end of the game, getting it back to 18-16, before the big Dane closed out the game.

Again, Evans won the first point in the second game: ranked 72 in the world, he probably needed to get ahead of Axelsen to truly test him, but instead he fell behind, 6-2, then 10-4, and in danger of blown right out of it.

But the 28 year-old Evans, competing in his third Olympics, simply refused to lie down, and with Irish crowd getting behind him again, poured every ounce of effort into every shot. He changed the shuttlecock a few times too and that appeared to give him some breathing space.

Suddenly Axelsen was the one in trouble: leading 19-6, he lost the next six points, and looked a little rattled. With that the Irish support changed their tune to ‘Ole-Ole-Ole’.

Only it wasn’t to be, Axelsen earning himself the match point: Evans smashed it down the line, and although called out, he again contested: in the end then the computer confirmed it was out, as indeed was Evans.

He embraced Axelsen over the net, appearing perhaps to shed a tear or two, as the sweat poured down his face. And moments later the shirt came off, and fired into the direction of the Irish support.

“I’d really worked hard to get in my best shape possible for this tournament,” said Evans, and he showed it too. And perhaps realising his chances of making a fourth Olympics in 2020 are beyond him, he clearly went out fighting.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics