OLYMPICS Day 7 – One Lee down, one to go for gold

Lee Hyun Il lost out to Lin Dan, who now seeks to repeat his golden performance from Beijing against Lee Chong Wei.  One all-China final finished, with another in the […]

Lee Hyun Il lost out to Lin Dan, who now seeks to repeat his golden performance from Beijing against Lee Chong Wei.  One all-China final finished, with another in the works.

By Michael Burke, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

A masterful Lee Chong Wei (pictured) beat Chen Long in the first men’s singles semi-final, the only shock being the size of the margin of defeat, the Malaysian taking the match 21-13, 21-14 in 54 minutes of high quality badminton.

On paper, it should have been a very balanced match.  Lee looked inspired early on as he moved well around the court to take seven unanswered points but to his credit, Chen did not panic and played calmly to finally get on the board.  Playing the high calibre badminton we expect of them, the two had some great exchanges, but Lee opened up his smash and took a healthy 11-4 lead into the mid-game interval.

Chen Long recovered, with the scoring more even after the break, but never made inroads into the deficit.  The reaction speed of Lee coupled with his characteristic solid defence saw Chen’s attacks turned against him as the Malaysian took the first game 21-13.

Knowing that conceding an early gap would almost certainly consign him to defeat, Chen Long (pictured right with Lee) opened the scoring in the second game, but with Chen now playing on the slow side of the court, Lee was able to pick out the cross-court smash that had threatened him in the previous game.

Lee’s play was marked by his counter-attacking, with mid court drives and spectacular movement Lee wrestled control, exposing a weak backhand clear on the part of Chen. Lee Chong Wei guaranteed his place in the final, taking the second game 21-14, in the process answering all questions relating to his condition after the May injury that threatened to jeopardize his Olympic gold campaign.

“I didn’t expect to win [today] because my preparation has only been 50%,” said Lee after his match.  “I said to myself ‘I have nothing to lose’, but when I saw it was 11-4 in the first game, I realised I had to win this match and that’s why I played more confidently.

“I felt I was fully supported by the crowd and that made me feel that I had to win for the crowd.  It’s going to be quite tough and there will be a lot of pressure.  I’m definitely going to get a medal but I’ll work hard to get gold for Malaysia.

“My strategy is I have to be patient and not get too excited about who the opponent is.  I’ve played against [Lin] many times and we played in the World Championships [2011, also at Wembley]. So I will treat it just like another match.”

One more time for the top

Lee Chong Wei was joined by Lin Dan in a repeat of the Beijing final, after the Chinese defending champion beat Lee Hyun Il in a disappointingly one-sided match.  The Korean was clearly exhausted from his heroic effort against Chen Jin, the match eventually going 21-12, 21-10 in just 39 minutes.

Although Lin Dan (pictured) looked patchy in the three-game bout with Sho Sasaki in the previous round, the match against the holder of the wooden spoon from the previous , Korea’s Lee Hyun Il, began with Lin taking an11-1 lead as the Korean looked drained with very poor movement.

The second game was more level in the early stages as Lin Dan looked to have lost concentration and Lee Hyun Il, given these opportunities started to have warmed to the game.  Lin Dan led at the mid game interval 11-8, but the pace of the game often left him frustrated.  Refocussing at the break, Lin Dan pushed on as Lee’s movement again let him down.  A tame encounter eventually concluded 21-12, 21-10 and the other Lee is left once again to fight for bronze, this time against the other Chen.

One down, one to go, in two more senses

Other matches saw the deciding medal matches for the mixed doubles.  With China guaranteed to take gold and silver with Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei (pictured) facing Xu and Ma, the fast and furious match saw only to decide the order on the podium.  Zhao Yunlei dominated at the net as she had all tournament in support of a powerful Zhang to take and maintain an lead in the first game.

The second game followed in the same vein as the first albeit with an impressive comeback from Xu/Ma, as the World Champions added Olympic gold to their collection, the score concluding 21-11, 21-17.

Zhao began the day hoping for two gold medals and arguably the more elusive of the two is already hers.  She and Tian Qing are the heavy favourites to win the women’s doubles final on Saturday.

Meanwhile, China began the day hoping for two more all-Chinese finals to add to the mixed doubles.  Chen Long found that too tall an order but Wang Yihan (pictured) delivered, beating India’s Saina Nehwal for a seventh consecutive time.

Wang will now meet compatriot Li Xuerui in a final for the third time this year, but this time for Olympic gold.  Li narrowly edged out Wang Xin, once again leaving her just short of a major title.

Click here for complete Friday results


About Michael Burke