ASIAN GAMES Men’s Team Final – Golden Korea!!

A five-hour thriller ended the 12 years South Korea had to wait to once again climb the highest spot of the Asian Games men’s team badminton event.  Once again China […]

A five-hour thriller ended the 12 years South Korea had to wait to once again climb the highest spot of the men’s team badminton event.  Once again China was denied the title a few months after losing the Thomas Cup to Japan.

By Tarek Hafi, Badzine Correspondent live in Incheon.  Photos: CFP (live)

Luckily for the Korean and Chinese supporters, the Asian Games organizers decided to sell more tickets, preventing the disaster of the previous day, during the women’s final, when almost half the seats sat empty while it was supposed to be all sold out.

For those ticket holders, it was a golden chance indeed, to witness the home country create history, as they put up a tremendous 3-2 victory over China and its constantly threatened supremacy. It was all the more fortunate for those in attendance, as there was no live broadcast of the final on Korean televisions.  Speaking of fortunes, the gold medals themselves will have a special taste for almost half of the team, who will now be exempt from the Korean military service.

It all debuted with a fast and furious start from the twenty-six year-old Korean Son Wan Ho (pictured) taking on the world number two Chen Long with the manners.  The Korean player displayed a splendid tactical game in front of a very hesitant Chen Long, who committed several unusual errors.

The electric ambiance in the Gyeyang Gymnasium was surely a huge help for the Korean as he clinched the first game 21-5.  Still leading at the interval in the second game, Son impressed with his tactics and well-placed shuttles.  Despite a tense game, Son Wan Ho went on to have a match point, adding more noise to the gymnasium, though it was quickly denied by the Chinese, who was by then dealing much better with his opponent’s tactical game.

Despite the close loss of the second game, Son Wan Ho kept the team spirit he was asked to show and persevered in taking this very important win for his team.  The Korean created the gap with excellently placed smashes that led him straight to an epic victory over probably the best player in the world at the moment.  The world number seven proved to now be on a new stage of his career with this 21-5 24-22 21-14.

“I am being discharged today from the army; thus I wished to give a nice farewell souvenir to my fellow soldiers and team-mates,” commented Son Wan Ho after his victory.

Mixed doubles specialist Zhang Nan and Xu Chen (pictured) were chosen again for this final as the first men’s doubles pair.  This time, they were trying to topple the world number ones Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong (pictured below).  However, the Chinese duo never let themselves get bullied by the close-to-unbeatable Korean pair and instead kept the score very close, right up until the prolongation.

Although the Koreans tried to keep the attack, they were showed great answers at the net from Xu Chen and Zhang Nan, which soon came to an end after Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong stepped up their game until the recently formed Chinese pair failed at maintaining their rhythm, concluding in a straight-game win for the Koreans.

“Wan Ho’s win gave confidence to the whole team.  We were definitely able to play with less pressure on our shoulders,” said Korean superstar Lee Yong Dae.

The high profile Super Dan, did his part in the next match, though, bringing China back to right path with an efficient straight-game win over the twenty-four year-old Lee Dong Keun, who, despite a few attempts, never seemed to push the two-time Olympic champion, leaving his fellow team-mates Kim Sa Rang and Kim Ki Jung to try to be the closers for the title.

“He was just better than me today and the wind didn’t help either but I do trust my team-mates to do well in the following matches,” commented the soon-to-be exempted Lee Dong Keun of his opponent Lin Dan (pictured below).

Reunited during these Asian Games, Olympic gold medallists Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng accomplished their mission with great difficulty, facing the mighty Kim Ki Jung and Kim Sa Rang.  The legendary duo, world champions on five occasions were highly shaken during three long games but proved to still be great opponents despite having spent several months far from competition.

The Chinese legends’ abilities to provide precise attacks and net shots allowed them to slightly take the advantage over their younger opponents of the day after they bounced back from a game down to take the match.

A fifth and last match was then forced to take place in order to elect a winner for this much-coveted event.  Veteran Lee Hyun Il (pictured), back temporarily into the national team thus, came out to face his opponent Gao Huan, ten years his junior, chosen over his more experienced compatriot Wang Zhengming or Du Pengyu.  The role of the nation’s saviour became clearer with Lee Hyun Il’s touch and techniques, giving a new hope to a whole nation, craving to achieve an historic result this Asiad.

Two games were all that were needed for the Korean to turn the Gyeyang Gymnasium into an explosion of happiness, from the second Gao Huan sent that last shuttle into the net, sealing Korea’s will and destiny.

“It has been twelve years now and finally the months of training paid off.  We talked a lot yesterday about this final.  We really wanted to give our best and from my perspective, I wanted to show the way to all my juniors in the team, I can’t be happier right now,” concluded Lee Hyun Il, during his probably last Asian Games ever.

Men’s team final result: Korea 3, China 2
MS1:  Son Wan Ho (KOR) beat Chen Long (CHN)  21-5, 22-24, 21-14
MD1:  Lee Yong Dae / Yoo Yeon Seong (KOR) beat Xu Chen / Zhang Nan (CHN)  23-21, 21-13
MS2: Lee Dong Keun (KOR) lost to Lin Dan (CHN) 18-21, 15-21
MD2: Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang (KOR) lost to Cai Yun / Fu Haifeng (CHN) 21-19, 18-21, 16-21
MS3:  Lee Hyun Il (KOR) beat Gao Huan (CHN)  21-14, 21-18

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