SPORTS

Badminton hopes for another Lin Dan-Lee Chong Wei classic to remedy scandal-marred week

08/04/2012 04:42 EDT | Updated 10/04/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - It's been almost a year, and the memory still haunts Lee Chong Wei.

The greatest badminton player without an Olympic or world title had Lin Dan, the greatest player of at least this generation, at his mercy in a breathtaking world championships final in Wembley Arena.

Chong Wei had two match points.

And blew them.

Lin escaped the classic with an unprecedented fourth world title, his shirt-ripping celebration equally unforgettable.

"That was a stunning defeat as I was almost there, but all of a sudden the title vanished right before my eyes," Chong Wei said. "I made crucial mistakes but Lin Dan dared to gamble and it paid off for him. That defeat still lingers in my mind and it has strengthened my resolve to win the gold medal at the Olympics."

His chance comes in the same arena on Sunday, after he and Lin answered the sport's prayers by setting up a rematch of the Beijing Games final. Lin won that one, too, and he's seeking to become the first man to retain the singles title.

Badminton hopes another epic match between the sport's biggest stars will finish the tournament on a high note after the embarrassment of the match-throwing scandal in women's doubles.

Chong Wei carries the considerable weight of Malaysia, which expects him to win the country's first Olympic gold medal. Those hopes were dampened 10 weeks ago when he tore right ankle ligaments. However, doubters, including himself at first, and the injury have only hardened his resolve.

His type of injury was supposed to sideline him for six weeks, but he was training after three and a half. Stem cell injections and daily 13-hour rehab got him back. He struggled in his first match in London but has improved impressively in each outing.

"I have made the final and the feeling of relief, I must admit, is immense," he said. "The pressure I felt was unbelievable.

"A gold medal will validate my career. I don't have an Olympic gold medal, my country doesn't have an Olympic gold medal, this gold is important for me and for my country."

But he brings the best out of his good friend Lin, who has become more philosophical and appreciative as the end nears to his glittering decade-long career.

"I've been preparing since 2008 so I have put a lot into this," Lin said. "So I am very nervous. But if you want good results, it's normal to be nervous."

Redemption is also the theme of the following men's doubles final. Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng, the only four-time world champs in their event, lost the gold-medal final in Beijing on home court. Standing in the way of Olympic validation for the Chinese pair are surprise finalists Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen of Denmark.

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