INCHEON: The slumped shoulders and blank look on Lee Chong Wei’s face say it all as China’s Lin Dan shattered the world No. 1’s hopes of bagging the men’s singles gold in his final Asian Games appearance.
Olympic champion Lin Dan was just too good as he won the semi-final blockbuster 22-20, 12-21, 21-9 in 72 minutes at the Gyeyang Gymnasium. World champion Chen Long kept his part of the bargain to make it an all-Chinese final by beating Wei Nan of Hong Kong 21-6, 21-10 in the other semi-final.
Sunday was perhaps the last time badminton supporters will get to see the two clash at the Asiad and fans were already lining up at sunrise at the entrance to buy tickets.
Despite managing to pull back from a game down, it was the Malaysian who ended up in another heart-breaking loss after he faded in the decider.
The fans got what they came for in the first game as both players dished out fast returns and forced each other to dive for long shots.
Chong Wei, who will be 32 on Oct 21, was looking good at 20-16 but Lin Dan, who is a year younger, made an astonishing recovery to save four game points.
Chong Wei eventually lost 20-22 as Lin Dan smashed into his body.
He played better to take the second game 21-12 but the Chinese superstar turned the tables on him in the third as he romped to an 8-2 lead. Chong Wei could not close the gap and it was quickly game over.
It was yet another Asiad heartbreak for Chong Wei as he was also beaten by Lin Dan in the final in Guangzhou four years ago.
It was Chong Wei’s second men’s singles bronze, having been a losing semi-finalist in his debut in Doha in 2006.
Chong Wei was left to rue another missed opportunity.
“I wasted my chance when I was leading 20-16 in the first game. I was rushing to win it and I lost my focus as Lin Dan got closer.
“He played the third game well. He was so confident and I could not follow his pace.
“It got harder as he pulled away. I came here to try and win the gold. I tried my best but it’s just not meant to be,” he said.
Lin Dan acknowledged that Chong Wei was the strongest opponent he faced this year.
“It’s been so long since I played like this. I watched the video recording of him in action at the recent World Championships (in Copenhagen where he lost to Chen Long in the final) and my mental preparation coming here was very good,” said Lin Dan.