Badminton’s Lee Chong Wei has made a habit of falling just short in major tournaments but he now has a chance to settle a score with old foe Lin Dan at the Asian Games.
Top-ranked Lee’s list of failures grew again last month when, despite the absence of the much-decorated Lin, he was shocked by Chen Long in the world championships final.
After repeatedly being denied by China’s Lin in world and Olympic finals, it seemed Malaysia’s Lee, 31, had blown a huge chance to place a major trophy in his cabinet.
Even the sympathetic Malaysian media have started to wonder whether their hero, who has lost the last two Olympic finals against Lin, is a “choker”.
Now he will take aim at his first Asian Games title and, along the way, end a dismal run of reverses against his irrepressible Chinese rival.
Four years ago in Guangzhou, Lee was a despondent onlooker as “Super Dan” ripped off his shirt and celebrated wildly after winning a thrilling three-setter to clinch Asian Games gold.
It’s a scene that Lee has watched only too often, notably at the 2012 Olympics when he was a game up before unravelling as Lin fought back.
Last year, Lee also went a game up against Lin in the world championships final but had to retire in the third — the fifth major final he has lost against China’s golden boy.
A rematch in Incheon would please the fans, and it would make for an engrossing spectacle between two warriors past their physical prime but still at the peak of the sport.
Lin, 30, has spent long spells away from badminton since the London Olympics, and was out of the top 100 earlier this year before recovering to his current ranking of 19.
Lee, almost exactly a year older than Lin, has been dealing with a thigh problem which forced him out of the Commonwealth Games.
But Kenny Goh, general manager of the Badminton Association of Malaysia, said Lee was on track in his preparations and scheduled to arrive in Incheon on September 17.
“We are now into the final phase of our preparation. He is training every day… he has recovered from his injury,” Goh told AFP.
Lee himself said the Asian Games are “maybe… even more important” than the world championships because they are only held once every four years.
“I’ve came back from defeats many times. I just need to be mentally stronger this time,” he said after returning from the world championships, according Malaysia’s The Star.
“I also think that the Asian Games will definitely be a tougher challenge for me as China’s top two (Lin Dan and Chen Long) will be competing.
“So, it will be up to me to be strong enough to rise to that challenge.”