It will be a battle of military proportions on Sunday for the Men’s Singles gold medal in Olympic badminton.
The dream final for which most fans have been wishing has come true – Lt Commander Lee Chong Wei of the Royal Malaysian Navy and Lieutenant Colonel Lin Dan of the People’s Liberation Army in China will meet in the clash of titans at Wembley Arena.
The archrivals sealed their date with destiny – a rematch of the Beijing Olympics final – this afternoon; both conquering their semi-final opponents in straight games. First, the 29-year-old Malaysian overcame another Chinese top gun and world No. 3 Chen Long; a tricky prospect who has gotten the better of Lee in four of their ten battles.
Following Lee’s 21-13 21-14 progress to the final, Lin Dan booked a spot to defend his title, with little resistance from Korea’s No. 7 seed Lee Hyun Il. The 2008 Olympics gold medallist prevailed 21-12 21-10.
A lot will be at stake in the much-anticipated showdown as Lin Dan has overtaken Lee Chong Wei – who has top billing at this tournament – in the world rankings since the May 2012 qualification deadline for Olympic badminton. Additionally, Lee has the stinging memory of losing last year’s World Championships Men’s Singles final at this same venue to his 28-year-old Chinese nemesis.
“Beijing Olympics was different because it was home-court advantage for Lin Dan. I hope I can beat him here and win gold,” said Lee Chong Wei, who has improved with every match here, showing supporters he has fully recovered from ankle surgery.
World No. 1 “Super Dan”, as Lin Dan is familiarly known, is ready for a second crack at Olympic stardom and relishing the thought of playing a man whom he respects highly for the title.
“Today I was very focused. I did not want to repeat the same mistakes I committed yesterday. I really want to win for my country. I’m happy that, after all these years, Chong Wei and I still stand above the rest. We are not yet has-beens,” he noted.
“If I write an autobiography I will tell young aspirants not to think about the result of every match but to do their best all the time. Results will follow in their favour.”
Coming into the Olympics, some had questioned Lee Chong Wei’s fitness and wondered if he would be up to challenging the likes of Lin Dan and other top-ten shuttlers.
So far, he has answered any question asked of him, doing so impressively versus the formidable Chen Long in today’s semi-final.
It was a near-perfect demonstration from Lee Chong Wei (featured image) against his fast and powerful opponent. The Malaysian moved like lightning, defended stoutly and pounced on every opening. At match point, he roared and pumped his fists to signal his relief; having assured himself and Malaysia of a medal.
“When I went into the match, I thought this would be my last at the Olympics,” admitted Lee. “I had just two weeks of full training. My physical fitness was only 60 percent but I was determined to prove people wrong. I wanted to take the first game and I wanted to keep my lead throughout the match.”
Meanwhile, Lee Hyun Il fought valiantly against Lin Dan, trying to slow down the pace of the rallies, just as he did against Lin’s compatriot Chen Jin in the quarter-finals. However, Lin Dan accelerated whenever he wanted – often using the backcourt smash and advancing quickly to cut off Hyun Il’s returns.
So far, in these Olympics, nobody has seriously troubled badminton’s most dominant Men’s Singles player. Come Sunday, fans will see if anyone can.