He looked composed throughout a fluid final but when Chen Long let the shuttle drop in on match point, the 27-year-old Dane raised both arms in the air and paced the court with his mouth agape.
“When I won the last point I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel anything, I could only feel a big rush of adrenaline and happiness,” Axelsen said following the 21-15 21-12 win. “This is the biggest dream of mine coming true, I simply can’t believe it.”
Then came the tears, a warm embrace and an exchange of shirts.
“I respect Chen Long a lot,” Axelsen said. “He came over to my side of the court and told me I deserved it and that my performance here has been great. I asked him if we could change shirts, and we did.”
After being presented with his gold medal by compatriot and BWF President Poul-Erik Hoyer – the only other non-Asian player to win the Olympic title – Axelsen received a phone call from an even higher seat of Danish royalty.
“It was the Crown Prince of Denmark. Would you believe it? He just told me that it was amazing to see and big congrats, so obviously that means a lot.
“This means the world to me. I feel, not complete, but really calm and happy.”