Classic line-up of nemesis’s from China and Malaysia as the super stars fight for the fated Gold Medal
By Katie Garner
Players: Lin Dan (China) versus Chong Wei Lee (Malaysia)
It’s so difficult to emphasis the influence, popularity and magnitude of these massive Asian stars. Chinese show man Lin Dan and Malaysia’s smooth super star Chong Wei Lei are badminton’s version of David Beckham and Thierry Henry who are renowned in our national sport, football. These players have had a giant 49 head to head matches so far in their careers, normally in the finals of almost every single badminton event going, where they annihilate the competition with their faultless shot placement, swift court rotation and impeccable styles of play. This was geared up to be another exhilarating finale between the duo, who to be honest must be sick of the sight of each other. Lin Dan swept the gold at the last Olympics leaving Lee with the silver so it’ll be interesting to see how this match will play out.
Lin Dan starts off the opening game with a strong, intimidating stance that almost seems to fluster even the experienced Lee. There is quite a bit of clearing as the adopts a more even pace, the players almost like they’re playing a shoot-out awaiting the first real move to be displayed so they can gauge what the other had to offer. There is already a fantastic mix of shots from both players which clearly indicate their high standings in the game, but especially of note is Lin Dan’s impressive shot placement.
Lee however is currently getting the better of Lin Dan in the net play, as his drop shots and net points appear to be so much closer to the net, really trickling along the tape. There are so many net cord calls throughout the whole game which really show how tight these points are, but also how easily they can swing either way. The deception from Lin Dan in his shots is also really amazing, as he disguises his shots so sneakily. It’s so hard to even be able to contemplate who could even pull ahead in this match as they are both such polished performers on court, with a matching skill set. They’re shots are so superb and it is a fantastic lesson to just be able to watch them on court. It will literally fall down to who is having a better run on the day.
Lee really mixes up his shots with some super quick drives followed by a change of pace cross court net shot that completely outfoxes Lin Dan, who follows this with some unforced errors – never a good thing. The first interval leaves Lee with a small lead at 11-8 and continues afterwards as Lee moves Lin Dan well around the court with a mix of smashes and net shots. Although Lee may appear to be the gentler of the two players, he is still keen to punish poor shots delivered by Lin Dan, for example thrashing a weak clear by pouncing on it and producing a cross court smash, so eager to jump in and be aggressive when the need arises.
Both players make some nervy shots, as they are both desperate to chalk up some points with a win in the first game, which is always such a boost in your confidence. Their skill and passion for the sport is evident in every point – even when they slip on the floor, they are so quick to immediately jump up and regain their composure, ready again to receive the next shot. Lee also begins to fire up his incredible smash, springing up and delivering power and precision to attempt to catch Lin Dan off guard. At this point in the game, it’s still impossibly close, and Lee has really stepped up with his shot placement. This in turn leads to Lee snatching the first game 21-15 in just 26 minutes. Even though he seems quite an understated and quiet player, you can absolutely see the passion for his sport burning in his eyes and that is what is so important to see. You can tell how much he loves badminton. Lin Dan also made more unforced errors than is the norm which also aided Lee’s bid for the first game. This first game win enables Lee to enter the second game with an advantage, although it is far from over yet.
Lin Dan starts the second game by quite tentative play – leaving shots that are in, so maybe he needs to re-focus and get his game face back on for the next barrage of shots. He does this by delivering some really tight net shots that force Lee to lift, and these either fly out at the back of the court uncontrolled or are answered for by Lin Dan’s powerful smash. Differences in the pair’s play are more evident at this point, as Lin Dan cannot really be beaten with his attacking play, but Lee has such developed shot placement and movement, that both players are inspiring in their own ways.
Lee starts strong and is being incredibly punishing at the moment, not letting Lin Dan have any room for error, which is right really, considering their amazingly high level of play. Both players put down the power as the second game develops, Lin Dan for the reason that he needs to win this to still have a chance of gold, Lee because he wants to ideally close this out in two games. The tension also hits as both players begin to let their smashes do the talking as well as hitting more unforced errors than is normal.
Lin Dan leads at the interval 11-8 so still not much between the two players, although Lin Dan is really pushing his attacking play now, while Lee in contrast is piling up with the errors. This causes Lin Dan to get a massive 6 point lead at 13-7 which suggests that the game would go in Lin Dan’s favour and then into a third and final decider game. Lee really needs to utilise his opportunities more in my opinion as I don’t think he converted as many winning point chances as he could have done. Lin Dan is really taking charge and Lee is not at his best, so it’s currently swinging in Lin Dan’s favour. Lin Dan begins to catch Lee out with shots landing plumb on the line – I wonder whether Lee is battling tiredness as he doesn’t even attempt to retrieve the shot. He looks lazier and not his usual alert self (even with shots that are obviously in) which is really worrying at this stage, although he may just have decided to save his energy for the third and inevitable last game.
The second game them opts in Lin Dan’s favour with a 21-10 win and it’s now all done to who has the most physical and mental strength left to see the game into its conclusion.
Lee starts this game well by setting up the point with his famed net shots and then finishing off with a clever slicing smash, but then Lin Dan takes over at the interval after an intense and challenging first half. Lee combats this by drawing even at 13-13 with a body smash then taking him to 14-13, once again so well aimed from the Malaysian. They are level pegging for so much of this final game, really tit for tat at every opportunity making it increasingly difficult for either one of them to pull ahead at any point. Even all the way up to 18-18 and there is still no indication over who will win, although it is clear that Lee is very nervous about lifting the shuttle up to Lin Dan. Both players are now laced with desperation, as they can taste the gold medal between their teeth, but they are simply finding it so hard to get around each other. It reaches 20-19 to Lin Dan, with the atmosphere absolutely electric and so intense. Lin Dan finally manages to grasp the game 21-19 after an incredibly packed final rally showcasing the stars finest shots and skills.
Lin Dan takes the gold and Lee snatches at the silver. I can’t help but feel for Lee as he stands on the podium as he looks bitterly disappointed with tears straining to free themselves. That is the one difficult thing about these gold medal matches, even though you have technically won a silver medal, which in itself is an absolutely staggering and brilliant achievement, at the end of the day, it will still feel like a loss as someone else has defeated you and won a higher accolade. It’s really tough but to be honest, so many people dream of standing on that podium, so no matter where you are on it, you should be proud of your performance, and scheming for next time.