Super Long stands tall

Super Long stands tall

Chinese wins title to deny Lee a golden Olympic swansong

Super Long stands tall

China's Chen Long stepped out of compatriot Lin Dan's shadow to spoil Lee Chong Wei's hopes of a golden Olympic swansong and win the men's badminton title on Saturday.

The Malaysian's conqueror at successive world championship finals in 2014-15, the rangy Chinese was majestic in the 21-18, 21-18 title-decider, soaking up fierce pressure and smashing through Lee's defences at a heaving Riocentro.

In a career dominated by near-misses, Lee lost his third successive final after being beaten by Chinese great Lin for the gold in Beijing and London.

Lee battled to the finish, saving two match-points but surrendered on the third with a desperate smash that just sailed wide, triggering wild celebrations from red-clad Chinese fans in flag-draped terraces.

An overwhelmed Chen, the bronze medallist at London, slumped to his knees then lay belly-down on the court where he grabbed China's second title of a mostly disappointing tournament for the Asian badminton superpower.

Rising to his feet he grabbed his rackets from his bag, walked around the arena and tossed them into roaring pockets of fans, before doing the same with his shirt.

Viktor Axelsen celebrated Denmark's second medal of the tournament by edging twice champion Lin 15-21, 21-10, 21-17 in the play-off for bronze, denying the Chinese great a medal in his final Games.

With Lee having beaten his nemesis Lin in the semifinals, the championship match was meant to have been the four-times Olympian's crowning moment, when he finally grabbed the elusive major title missing in his career resume and ended his nation's 52-year wait for an Olympic gold. He had come within two points of winning the gold in London and at the Riocentro, he also had his chances.

He held a 13-9 lead in the first set and was 8-5 in the second but was powerless to maintain the intensity against an opponent virtually impenetrable in defence. With Chen's fans bellowing "China must win!", the Chinese grabbed four match points when Lee flicked an attempted drop-shot into the net.

Lee mounted a daring raid on the net to save one and clawed back to 20-18.

But he finally succumbed with the desperate overhead, leaving travelling Malaysian fans groaning and a nation frustrated that their wait for an Olympic champion goes on till the next Games.

Lin stays mum

Chinese superstar Lin, regarded by some as badminton’s greatest-ever player, batted off retirement talk after leaving the Rio Games empty-handed.

“I was pretty drained from yesterday’s match,” Lin told reporters, referring to his semifinal defeat to arch-nemesis Lee on Friday.

“However in the third game of today’s match I think my opponent got lucky because there were several shots at the net that I didn’t perform very well,” he added.

Lin — a five-time world champion — won gold at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, beating Lee in both finals but he was unable to repeat those heroics in Brazil.

Rio was the tattooed Lin’s fourth Olympics and he is expected to have retired by the time Tokyo 2020 comes around. He will be 36 when the next Games start.

But Lin, nicknamed “Super Dan”, insisted he hadn’t been giving retirement much thought and said for now he just needed to recover from Rio before making any decisions.

“I haven’t thought about it that much,” he said, when asked if Rio would be his last Olympics. “I just focused myself fully on this Olympic Games. After this one I will rest for a while and then make a decision,” added Lin, a five-time world champion.

Axelsen paid tribute to Lin, who he watched first-hand in China at the Olympics eight years ago while only a teenager.

“No, I would have thought that maybe he would have retired before I reached this level,” the 22-year-old Dane said when asked if he could ever have imagined beating his badminton hero for a bronze medal. “But I’m really, really happy that I managed to do this. I’ve been watching Lin since I was a little kid. 

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