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Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016 Badminton Olympic Gold medal match final report-an autopsy

Third time's the charm? That adage may hold true for the challenger Lee Chong Wei who entered the men's singles finals as a favourite and top seed based on World ranking.  Lee Chong Wei indeed managed to beat his most formidable opponent, Lin Dan in an actual Olympic game. Third time's the charm indeed.

The match between Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan was everything we hope to see either as a badminton purist or a rabid nationalist supporter's point of view. It was that good. The anti-climax to Lin Dan's Olympic dream to achieve the golden hat-trick or three-peat. The game had the making of a titanic struggle fit for the Olympian gods. Alas, it was a semifinal through sheer chance of the draw.

Chen Long the other competitor in the finals was arguably going through an easier draw beating the upcoming Danish star, Viktor Axelsen. Credit to Chen Long for dispatching his opponents in a clinical no nonsense fashion.

The game between Chen Long and Lee Chong Wei in the 1st set was tense with both players using the allocated challenges on the call of the linesmen. The challenges were used as a psychological tool to create self-doubt in the minds of the opponent and buying extra time to think. With the Hawkeye apparatus, the camera captured whether the shuttle landed in or not. Kudos to the linesmen who made the correct and impartial calls.

The pressure of competing in the pinnacle of men's badminton comes with expectations of a nation- creates a psychological pressure cooker, one can only imagine if one is in either man's shoes. Every opportunity to attack comes with the risk of making errors. This created a perfect storm of defensive posture in both men. However, this strategy suited Chen Long who is taller and has a better reach; thus able to intercept or retrieve shots earlier. This created pressure movement for Lee Chong Wei who has to find a way to avoid his movement being dictated by Chen Long. Hence Chen Long has control of Lee Chong Wei. Owing to this movement pressure, Lee Chong Wei being 'late' to the shuttle was 'coerced' to make errors as Lee Chong Wei was in a less stable and commanding positions most of the time.

Being unable to dictate the pace, Lee Chong Wei could not force his will on Chen Long and hence lost the initiative. To attack, is to take risk but in a pressure situation Lee Chong Wei was unable to summon the risk taking, explosive and high pace game that only hitherto he or Lin Dan was capable of. Therefore, it's only a matter of time; that Chen Long has the lead and running up the score, ending in Chen Long's victory 21-18, 21-18. All and all, the coaching staff of China made the correct strategy for Chen Long which played to his strength. As a team, they deserved the credit for Chen Long's success and Olympic gold medal.

On the flip side, Lee Chong Wei, a great badminton talent and sports ambassador achieved a unique silver medal hat-trick, a huge achievement itself. Fairly or unfairly, Lee Chong Wei shoulders a huge burden of expectation for his country, Malaysia. Chen Long on the other hand established himself as the alpha dog in badminton men's singles. On top of his Olympic gold medal, Chen Long is the reigning World Champion himself.

Prior to the Gold medal match, Viktor Axelsen defeated an exhausted looking Lin Dan to claim a Bronze medal. The changing of guard has been established with both Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan not competing in 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

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