OLYMPICS 2008 Day 9 – No WEI Out of DANger

Danger lurked everywhere and there was no way out of the dragon’s den for Lee Chong Wei last night. The Malaysian found himself trapped in Lin Dan’s flawless set-up to […]

Danger lurked everywhere and there was no way out of the dragon’s den for Lee Chong Wei last night. The Malaysian found himself trapped in Lin Dan’s flawless set-up to safeguard the last piece of badminton gold ware at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Earning only consolation points from their 21-12, 21-8 men’s singles final, Chong Wei was forced to retreat into his own tiger’s den.

By Jan Lin, reporting live from Beijing (BIMC). Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

World number 1 Lin Dan has always taken pride in the fact that he was once part of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the days of his youth. Like every member of the PLA, Lin had grown up believing that he has been issued a mandate to protect the interests of the nation. This is how, the jade-plated 2008 Olympic Games men’s singles gold medal remains unremoved from China’s soil.

Chong Wei may not have been at his best last night but the world number 1 Lin Dan was unreal. In the sport of badminton at the 2008 Olympic Games, Lin has perhaps established himself as the equal of Michael Phelps in swimming or Usain Bolt in track and field. Getting to the Olympic final without dropping a game is already a feat.  Handing out a single-digit score in the final is quite out of this world.

"Perhaps it’s a joke between the two," remarked the commentators during their match. It is indeed a bittersweet ending for the 26-year-old Chong Wei, who is believed to have peaked at the right time with his consistent harvest of victories over the past year, including the recent caning of Lin Dan at the 2008 Thomas Cup’s semi-final in Jakarta this May. Lin (pictured right) had crumbled 12-21 14-21 to Chong Wei.

Still, Malaysia should certainly take comfort in the fact that this piece of silverware is the nation’s best ever achievement in the men’s singles event. The depth of the current world’s top 10 men’s singles players indicates that this silver medal could have been anybody’s. With Chong Wei’s "party-pooper" status at the World Championships just last year at this time, it should be heartening to know that this medal is clearly stained with sweat and tears.

The gold medal, on the other hand, is finally delivered to the rightful owner albeit belatedly so.

Releasing a charming smile on the podium then heaving a sigh of relief, the 25-year-old Lin may have taken only 41 minutes to bag gold tonight, but in reality, he had taken a long and strenuous path onto the winner’s podium. Already the top seed in Athens, where he was crucified in first round, it effectively took 4 years’ worth of relentless belief for Lin (pictured left) to mount the podium in Beijing.

"Everyone knows that I have come a long way for this; moreover, this year has been a particularly difficult year for me with a series of unpleasant misfortunes coming my way. So to be able to win this title, I hope it has proven to myself and to the world that I’m truly capable. And yes, I still have a long way to go, this is not the end," revealed Lin Dan, who is nicknamed "Super Dan" in China.

Like Lin Dan, 22-year-old He Hanbin, who was featured in the mixed doubles bronze medal play-off with women’s doubles champion Yu Yang, also banked on the desire to prove himself to allow him to nail a sensational victory last night. With excellent chemistry, the 4th-seeded He/Yu overcame world number 3 Flandy Limpele/Vita Marissa in a 73-minute match that went right down to the wire.

After his 19-21, 21-17, 23-21 victory, an emotional He Hanbin said heartwarmingly in the post-match interview, "The semi-final defeat had shaken me; so much so that we couldn’t sleep the whole of the last night after the defeat. I have been so shaken by my underperformance that I was determined to prove to myself and to China tonight and I believe this was the impetus that saw us through."

Korea Relives 1996 Atlanta Games in Beijing

Indonesia, on the contrary, had a promising start to their medal collection yesterday but suffered an unfortunate switch in fate today. After losing to host China in the mixed doubles bronze medal play-off, the chance for another round of Indonesia Raya vapourised, when their top-seeded mixed doubles pair of Nova Widianto/Lilyana Natsir froze in the tracks of Korea’s Lee Hyo Jung/.

Underdogs Lee/Lee became the only unseeded pair of players to bag an Olympic title at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. It was a perfect end for the 19-year-old Lee Yong Dae, who had suffered a disastrous start to his inaugural Olympic campaign with a shocking first round dismissal in the men’s doubles event. Lee’s partnership, with 25-year-old Jung Jae Sung, was seeded 3rd.

Lee’s mixed doubles’ partner, Lee Hyo Jung, also enjoyed a splendid finish to her second Olympic outing. With her colourful closet of medals in Beijing – a silver in the women’s doubles and a gold in the mixed doubles – the lanky and perky 27-year-old Korean has equalled her coach Gil Young Ah’s 1996 Atlanta success and has joined her to become one of Korea’s most successful shuttlers in history.

Just as Lee Hyo Jung did, Gil lost the women’s doubles title to China’s then-rising women’s doubles pair of 21-year-olds, Ge Fei and Gu Jun, who later defended their crown at the 2000 Sydney Games. This might be a promising sign for Du/Yu’s chances of defending their title at the 2012 London Games. Uncannily, besides Lee Hyo Jung shadowing Gil Young Ah in Atlanta, Lee Yong Dae had also walked in the footsteps of Gil’s 1996 Atlanta Games’ mixed doubles partner, Kim Dong Moon.

The then-20-year-old Kim also suffered a first-round exit in the men’s doubles event in 1996, but he then went on to engrave his name, with the then-26-year-old Gil Young Ah, onto badminton’s first Olympic mixed doubles crown. After the bleak Atlanta outing for the Korean men’s doubles, Korea recovered in 2000 and 2004 to win a haul of 1 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze medals through 4 talented young Korean men, just like Lee Yong Dae (pictured right with Lee Hyo Jung).

Perhaps, the Olympic destiny can be pre-empted after all. So it probably ain’t too early to make your 2012 picks four years prior to the next edition of the Olympiad and we hope you have enjoyed Badzine’s 2008 Beijing ’ special coverage, see you in London 2012. Zai jian le!

2008 Beijing Olympic Games Men’s Singles Final Standing:

Gold – Lin Dan (China)
Silver – Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia)
Bronze – Chen Jin (China)

2008 Beijing Olympic Games Mixed Doubles Final Standing:

Gold – Lee Yong Dae/Lee Hyo Jung (Korea)
Silver – Nova Widianto/Lilyana Natsir (Indonesia)
Bronze – He Hanbin/Yu Yang (China)

2008 Beijing Olympic Games Final Medal Tally

China – 3 Gold 2 Silver 3 Bronze
Korea – 1 Gold 1 Silver 1 Bronze
Indonesia – 1 Gold 1 Silver 1 Bronze
Malaysia – 1 Silver

For all Day 9 results, click HERE

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