China’s newly minted Olympic champion Chen Long has hailed the rivalry between the man he defeated in the Rio men’s singles final and his compatriot Lin Dan, suggesting that he himself is ready to start a fresh dynasty.
The 27-year-old Chen won the gold medal on Saturday with a 21-18, 21-18 victory over Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, who in the past eight years has battled Lin in one of sport’s great rivalries.
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Two-time world and All England champion Chen said he has followed and been inspired by the two greats since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when Lin scored the first of two Games finals victories over Lee.
“I started watching them in the Beijing Olympics,” said Chen. “Before that, Lin had rivalry with [Indonesia’s] Taufik Hidayat and then Lee Chong Wei came along.
“Hopefully I can be like them,” said a humble world number two, who has already achieved much in global badminton.
Chen’s victory gave China two gold medals in the badminton competition after they won the men’s doubles title on Friday. However, the Chinese failed to meet their target of completing a clean sweep of all five badminton golds.
Lin, 32, was beaten by Lee in the semi-finals and then lost to Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen in the bronze medal play-off.
A heartbroken Lee apologised to an expectant Malaysian public, who are still waiting for their first Olympic gold medal.
“I know 30 million people in Malaysia are sad and disappointed and I feel very sorry,” said Lee, who overcame an eight-month doping ban last year to regain his world number one ranking.
“I had eight months of difficult times, I tried to win gold and did a lot of intensive training for the Olympics. Everybody should have seen that I put in my best effort but I still couldn’t make it.
“This is my fourth and last Olympics. At 33, things are getting tougher for me, the recovery process takes a long time. Chen Long is only 27 and recovers faster and has a lot of advantages over me. I can say he prepared very well for this game.”
Although Lee confirmed this would be his last Olympics, he is not ready to hang up his racquet altogether just yet.
“If they want me to retire there is nothing I can do, but I just want to get back to my family and two kids. I came here early to prepare and been in Rio three weeks.
“Maybe I’ll play for another year and then see if I can help youngsters in Malaysia. I hope someone can win a gold for Malaysia in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”