Axelsen ends Long wait, Polii-Rahayu scores a first in doubles

Denmark's Viktor Axelsen hits a shot to China's Chen Long in their men's singles badminton final match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza in Tokyo on August 2, 2021. (Photo by Pedro PARDO / AFP)

PETALING JAYA: Viktor Axelsen wept like a baby after ending Denmark’s 25-year wait for a men’s singles gold medal.

His emotional celebration is well deserved as the 27-year-old held his ground for 51 minutes to defeat reigning champion Chen Long of China 21-15, 21-12 to become only the second Danish gold medallist in badminton after Poul-Erik Hoyer at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

The former world champion was a class above his 32-year-old opponent yesterday. Axelsen showed unwavering focus to crush his opponent with his powerful attacking and complimented it with an equally impressive defensive flair.

At the last Games five years ago, Axelsen defeated Lin Dan of China in the bronze-medal playoff in Rio.

There was good news for Indonesia too as Greysia Polii-Apriyani Rahayu pulled off a hard-fought 21-19, 21-16 win over China’s Chen Qingchen-Jia Yifan to win their nation’s first gold in Tokyo and a first for women’s doubles.

It was a redemption of sort for Greysia, who almost quit the game five years ago when her partner Nitya Krishinda Maheswari went for a knee surgery after their quarter-final defeat at the Rio Games.

But more importantly, it also showed her strong resolve to make up for the bitter disappointment at the 2012 London Games when she and Meiliana Jauhari were banned after deliberately losing a group match to secure a more favourable draw in the knockout round.

“I just kept the passion and commitment – it takes commitment to reach your dream,” said an emotional Polii, whose brother died of Covid-19 in December last year, a day after her wedding.

“At the London Olympics, it broke my heart. So many people in Indonesia told me not to give up. They still had trust in me.”

Despite Chen Long’s defeat, China were the biggest winners in the Games as they picked up two golds in the women’s singles (Chen Yufei) and mixed doubles (Wang Yilyu-Huang Dongping).

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