Gold for China: Chen Long delivers heartbreak for Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei in badminton final
For the third straight Olympics, Malaysian superstar has to settle for a silver medal after losing to world number two, who keeps gold in Chinese hands
China’s Chen Long ended Lee Chong Wei’s final bid for an Olympic gold medal, scoring a close but deserved 21-18, 21-18 victory in the final on Saturday at RioCentro Pavilion 4.
The 27-year-old world number two succeeded where compatriot and two-time defending champion Lin Dan failed, the latter being knocked out by 33-year-old Lee in an epic semi-final on Friday.
Chen’s victory dealt a heartbreaking blow to the popular Lee’s much-publicised quest for gold, after he lost in the London and Beijing finals to Lin.
The tall and lanky Chen said he owed his victory to China’s men’s double pair who won gold on Friday.
“Yesterday I saw my colleagues win the gold medal and that really inspired me when I came out to play in the final,” said Chen.
“The reason I won today has everything to do with them.”
For Lee, it was the end of a long and arduous comeback after being suspended for eight months for a doping offence.
The fact that he even returned to the world number one spot is an amazing achievement and his win over Lin may have taken too much out of him.
“It was my dream to win an Olympic gold medal because I got silver in London and Beijing but I played my best and my opponent played better than me.
“Of course i regret not being able to win but it was not to be my day.”
Chen and Lee played a cat and mouse game in the first session until Lee looked like he was taking control by going 13-9 up.
Chen’s strength in the first game was his ability to keep mistake to a minimum. Twice he won points after returning ferocious smashes from Lee, who was forced into errors by his rush to win rallies.
At 4-1 down in the second game, the Malaysia fans seemed to have lost their voices but two errors by Chen allowed Lee to fifth back and stay in the match.
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Chen, a two-time world and all England champion, lost a challenge on an out call to go 8-5 down in the second before clawing back to 8-8.
Lee simply couldn’t put enough distance between the two as Chen won six points in a row to go into the interval 11-8 ahead. The Malaysian former all England winner brought it to 11-12, all from Chen errors before the Chinese surged to 15-11 lead.
A failed challenge on a call out Chen 16-13 ahead and another desperate attempt to overturn a decision backfired on Lee two points later.
Lee looked a spent man as Chen took charge. Lee’s failed drop shot gave Chen four match points and the Chinese star took gold on his third when Lee hit a smash wide.
Meanwhile, Chinese superstar Lin Dan, regarded by some as badminton’s greatest-ever player, batted off retirement talk after leaving the Rio Games empty-handed Saturday with a bronze-medal-match defeat to Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen.
The double Olympic champion took the first set 21-15 but tired to lose the following two games 21-10, 21-17 in a defeat that likely brought the curtain down on his hallowed Games career.
“I was pretty drained from yesterday’s match,” Lin told reporters, referring to his semi-final defeat to arch-nemesis Lee on Friday.
“However in the third game of today’s match I think my opponent got lucky because there were several shots at the net that I didn’t perform very well,” he added.
Lin –a five-time world champion – won gold at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, beating Lee in both finals but he was unable to repeat those heroics in Brazil.
In the last-four match, Lin won the first game 21-15 but lost the second 21-11 before his dreams of a third consecutive Olympic gold medal were shattered with a 22-20 defeat in the third.
Saturday’s third-place match loss to Axelsen was almost certainly the last time that Lin, who turns 33 later this year, would grace the Olympic stage.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse