Chong Wei hopes to topple Lin Dan and win a gold medal for fans
VENUE: Beijing University of Technology Gymnasium COMPETITION DATES: Aug 9-17 MEDALS AT STAKE: 5-5-5
THE TEAM Men: Lee Chong Wei, Wong Choong Hann (singles); Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, Lee Wan Wah-Choong Tan Fook (doubles) Women: Wong Mew Choo (singles); Chin Eei Hui-Wong Pei Tty (doubles) Manager: Datuk Lim Teong Kiat. Coaches: Yap Kim Hock, Misbun Sidek, Rexy Mainaky, Wong Tat Meng
PAST ACHIEVEMENTS 1992 Barcelona: Jalani-Razif Sidek (doubles, bronze) 1996 Atlanta: Yap Kim Hock-Cheah Soon Kit (doubles, silver); Rashid Sidek (singles, bronze) 2000 Sydney: No medals 2004 Athens: No medals
KUALA LUMPUR: It was eight years ago but national number one Lee Chong Wei still remembers vividly his first painful defeat by China’s Lin Dan.
In his first international tournament, the 2000 Asian Junior Championships in Kyoto, Chong Wei lost by just one point to Lin Dan in the rubber game (15-8, 7-15, 17-16) in the quarter-final match. The Chinese went on to lift the title.
There will be another clash of titans between Lin Dan and Chong Wei in the final of the Beijing Olympics men’s singles event if both players live up to their billings. And that will be a dream come true for Chong Wei.
“I was 18 and was so excited to feature in my first international tournament. I played against Lin Dan for the first time and lost to him by one point … it was so close,” said Chong Wei, who was then the country’s top national junior.
“But I knew then, that this player (Lin Dan) will become the world’s top player.”
Since then, the talented Lin Dan had taken the lead to dominate world badminton. In fact, the duo had met 12 times with Lin Dan winning eight of the matches.
But in their last encounter two months ago, Chong Wei showed that he had narrowed the gap by bulldozing past the Chinese in straight games in the first match of the Thomas Cup semi-final tie in Jakarta.
After putting such great effort in training, Chong Wei is determined to cap an eight-year rivalry by taking on Lin Dan in the final of the Beijing Games.
“Both of us have come very far since that first meeting (in 2000). Currently, he is the greatest men’s singles player in the world. Nothing will give me the pleasure but to play against him in the final. If this happens, it will be a dream come true,” said Chong Wei.
The 26-year-old added that both of them had their own specialties.
“He has grown into a great attacking player since our first meeting. He is powerful and his speed is amazing. And his skills are extraordinary. That is why he has been dominating the world scene for a long time,” said Chong Wei.
“I used to play a more defensive game. But now, there is more bite in my game. Since I followed coach Misbun (Sidek), I have become a more complete player.”
In his bid to make the final in Beijing, the second seeded Chong Wei is wary of the threat posed by the players in his half of the draw. He opens his campaign in the second round against Singapore’s Ronald Susilo. Both players drew first-round byes.
In his quarter are Indonesian Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana. The other quarter has China’s Bao Chunlai, Denmark’s Kenneth Jonassen and South Korea’s Lee Hyun-il.
Top seed Lin Dan has South Korean Park Sung-hwan, Dane Peter Gade-Christenten, compatriot Chen Jin, defending champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia and Malaysian Wong Choong Hann in his half of the draw.
After letting down Malaysia in last year’s World Championships where he lost in the third round to Sony, Chong Wei is determined to make up for the disappointment.
“I know that about 27 million Malaysians will be hoping for the badminton team to do well in the Olympics. My mission is to bring the cheers,” he said.
Malaysia have yet to win a gold medal in the Olympics.