RIO DE JANEIRO – Datuk Lee Chong Wei dashed China’s Lin Dan’s final Olympic title defence to qualify for the final after a rubber set thriller in the semifinals at the Rio Games here on Friday.
Chong Wei finally ended the bridemaid role in the two previous Games in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London as he disposed Lin Dan 15-21, 21-11, 22-20 in the gruelling 71-minute match.
“Now I don’t worry who my final opponent is as I am focused. I am happy to overcome the decisive moments,” said the 33-year-old Chong Wei who is yet to win the title in his fouth and final Olympics.
Chong Wei will meet China’s Chen Long in tomorrow’s 9.20am (8.20pm M’sian time) final. Chen Long defeated Viktor Axelsen of Denmark 21-14, 21-15 in the other semifinal match.
In the opening set, Lin Dan had a blistering start to take a 10-5 lead and maintain a five-point lead throughout with 13-8, 19-14 and wrapped up 21-15 in 26 minutes.
However, in the second set, the Chinese mega star conserved his energy and practically gave away as Chong Wei produced a prefectly-judged and determined
drive to win the second set.
Chong Wei shook off a horrible start and was unstoppable with a 10-point gap on two occassions 13-3, 18-8 and led 19-11 before sealing the match 21-11 in just 19 minutes.
The decider was thrilling as the ruthless Lin Dan was fighting point for point with Chong Wei who was ahead until Lin Dan levelled the score 11-11.
The heart-throbbing match went on with 13-13 as Lin Dan used his powerful smashes and tricky shots which caught Chong Wei off guard as the point for point battle went on to 15-15.
Every single point was crucial as the left-handed Chinese made mistakes in the net to allow Chong Wei to take a 19-16 lead before the Malaysian shot failed to get over the net.
Chong Wei had a three-point lead in his game point when Lin Dan, the two-time Olympics gold medallist, staged back a strong point to level at 20-20 for the deuce.
In those crucial moments, Chong Wei refused to fall unlike a similiar situation in London, two years ago when he lost after taking a 19-16 lead in the final against his nemesis.
“I made many mistakes in the first set and Lin Dan gave in the second before both went all out in the decider,” said the world number one.
He said a pep talk by his coach Hendrawan for almost 30 minutes last night really boosted my morale as he too lost in the 2000 Sydney Games.
“I was thinking only God will decide when I was at 20-20. I could not belive that I have come to this level after my eight-month doping suspension last year,” he said.
After the match, both players exchanged their t-shirt and hug for a moment as both will bid farewell to the Games. – BERNAMA