China’s Chen Long stepped out of compatriot Lin Dan’s shadow to deny Malaysian Lee Chong Wei a golden Olympic swan song and win the men's badminton singles title in Rio.
The Chinese defeated the Malaysian 21-18 21-18 in the title-decider. With the support of Chinese fans, whom he thanked after the final, Chen got four match points. Lee battled to the end, saving two of them but surrendered on the third with a desperate smash that sailed just wide.
An overwhelmed Chen, the bronze medallist in London, slumped to his knees and lay on the court where he grabbed China’s second title of the tournament. He said: “It was a pretty epic match, there were only two games but they lasted over 70 minutes. I believe both of us spared no efforts.”
“Yesterday the men’s doubles won the first gold of the Chinese badminton team in this Olympic Games, so it was a huge encouragement for me to channel that confidence and put it into today’s match. Me winning today has everything to do with my team-mates’ good result yesterday. I unleashed everything today and gave it my all.”
Four-time Olympian Lee lost his third successive final after being beaten by Chinese great Lin Dan for the gold in Beijing and London. He raised Malaysia’s hopes of finally grabbing the elusive title after edging Lin in a classic semi-final but failed to play at his best in the match that counted.
“Malaysia has never won a gold medal so I wanted to try it this time. I think today was not my day, I just tried every shot. Today Chen played very well, I just lost by making some simple mistakes,” the three-time Olympic silver medallist said.
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.
“The main challenge was to keep cool and to try my best to find a solution for winning and it worked out in the end,” the Dane summed up his strategy against Lin. “It’s really hard to describe this feeling. It is everything that I’ve trained for, a dream come true and so I’m so happy.”