OLYMPICS Day 6 – Lee denies Chen medal in grudge match

Just as in Beijing, it is again two Lees, one Lin and one Chen in the Olympic men’s singles semis, only this time, Lee Hyun Il has already thwarted the […]

Just as in Beijing, it is again two Lees, one Lin and one Chen in the Olympic men’s singles semis, only this time, Lee Hyun Il has already thwarted the medal hopes of Chen Jin, the man who denied him bronze in 2008.

By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

Lee Hyun Il (pictured) definitely peaks for the big events.  However, in his last tournament, he will be trying to shake his status as a quarter-final ace.

Ten years ago, he managed to reach the final when the Asian Games were played on his home turf but since then, he has tended to show his best form just a little too early.  In the 2006 World Championships, he upset Chen Jin in the quarters only to lose to Bao Chunlai.  Two years later, in Beijing, Lee was ranked out of the top 10 when he took down World #3 Bao but fell to Chen in the bronze medal match.

Even in the 2006 Asian Games, where Lee’s seeding predicted he would reach the semis and fall to top seed Lin Dan, which he did, he’d already had his moment of victory over Lin in Korea’s losing effort in the men’s team final.

Now, in London, Lee Hyun Il is once again the oldest of the four semi-finalists, which are identical with the exception of the substitution of one Chen for another.  Again, he has become the only player to muscle out one of the top four in the quarter-finals and again he has stated his intention to retire (for the third time) once the medals have been distributed.

Still, some things are different, his result against the 26-year-old Chen Jin foremost among them.  Again, both players played very patient games but Chen Jin, pushed the distance by Germany’s Marc Zwiebler a day earlier, had no visible fitness edge on the 32-year-old Korean.

Lee may have played patiently but he displayed none of the reluctance to attack that marked the end of his Beijing outing, but everything he sent downward was measured and deliberate, never opting for all-out power, and this kept Chen both guessing and running.

With all those careful rallies, it took Lee just shy of an hour to finish as the 21-15, 21-16 victor.  However, it was early in the second of those two games before the quality of their play was properly appreciated by the crowd, and that was because of what unfolded a few metres away.

Sho Sasaki of Japan might only have gotten the better of Lin Dan (pictured right with Sho) once in their previous nine meetings, but he was clearly hungry for a medal in London and he gave his all to make that happen, even faced with such imposing odds.

Defending champion Lin Dan took the first game convincingly before Sho evened things up with a 21-16 win.  Lin was too good, in the end, though and emerged with the third game to send the 30-year-old Sho packing after an hour and ten minutes of play.

Chen Long and Lee Chong Wei both won their matches convincingly.  The Malaysian, who suffered a serious injury during the Thomas Cup finals in May, spent longer against the unseeded Parupalli Kashyap of India than he did beating world #6 Simon Santoso on Wednesday so he enters the semi-finals in the most desirable fashion, having trounced a top 10 player and then finished the shortest of the quarter-finals.

With Sho Sasaki’s departure, Japanese hopes now rest on world #4 Mizuki Fujii / Reika Kakiiwa, who must face China’s mighty Tian Qing / Zhao Yunlei in the women’s doubles final while Russia’s Sorokina/Vislova play a rematch against Alex Bruce / Michelle Li (pictured), this time for the bronze medal.  The Canadians continue put their dismal performance in group play behind them, even nabbing the second game from the fourth-seeded Japanese.  If they are successful against the Russians, the women’s doubles bronze will be the first Olympic badminton medal in history to leave the Eurasian landmass.

Click here for complete Thursday results

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net