World Badminton Championships 2017: Can Lee Chong Wei end Lin Dan hoodoo as epic rivalry nears conclusion

Jamaican legend Usain Bolt competed in the last race of his celebrated career, the 4x100m relay, on 12 August. When he was handed the baton, the world waited with bated breath to see if he will bite the yellow metal for one last time.

Bolt, who won eight Olympic medals and 11 world titles, pulled a hamstring, tumbled, fell on the track and failed to complete his last-ever race.

In addition to being the greatest leveller, sports can also be cruel at times.

File photo of Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan. Getty Images

File photo of Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan. Getty Images

There is no one in badminton who understands the complex vagaries of sport better than Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei.

Lee has an enviable record in the Superseries/Grand Prix Gold events, but an unenviable one in global events like the Olympics and World Championships.

The Malaysian shuttler, who has been christened with the title 'Dato' for his achievements in badminton, has 66 titles to his name.

Lee is a four-time All England Open champion, 11-time Malaysia Open champion, four-time Hongkong Open champion, six-time Indonesia Open champion, six-time Japan Open champion and a number of other titles.

However, in events like the Olympics and World Championships, Lee always ran into a stone wall from China — Lin Dan.

In the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, Lee had to settle for a silver in his title tussle with Lin.

The Malaysian would have thought 2016 was his year, especially when he had his revenge by sending his rival out of the Olympics in the semi-final. Lee's 2016 Olympic final was supposed to be similar to the 2009 French Open victory by Roger Federer when he finally didn't have to meet Rafael Nadal in the final.

However, fate had other plans as he fell in the final to Chen Long, yet another Chinese wall, who bettered his 2012 bronze with a gold in the Rio Olympics.

The story in the World Championships was no different. Lee had to settle for silver in the 2011 and 2013 editions, while Lin stood on top of the podium on both occasions. In 2015, it was Chen Long's turn to rob the Malaysian off a long-pending gold.

Since turning a professional in 2000, the Malaysian has struck awe and admiration in the hearts of his competitors, who have come and left in a career that now spans 17 years.  He had an unprecedented run of 199 consecutive weeks as World No 1 from 21 August 2008 to 14 June 2012.

Such has been his stay on top that even Denmark's Viktor Axelsen, the 23-year-old Olympic bronze medallist who started his career 11 years after Lee, considers the 34-year-old as a threat to his World Championships dream.

Lin commands a similar respect among his peers and is widely considered to be the greatest badminton player of all time.

At the age of 28, he became the first player to complete the "Super Grand Slam", having won all nine major titles in the badminton world: Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup, Thomas Cup, Sudirman Cup, Super Series Masters Finals, All England Open, Asian Games, and Asian Championships, becoming the first and only player to achieve this feat.

In 2017, he added the one title that eluded him over the years, the Malaysian Open, defeating Lee in straight sets.

While Lin has won two titles this year, Lee's only win was in the All England Open and is going through a lean phase when compared to his exploits in the preceding years.

The year 2017 has also seen a healthy influx of players to the top bracket with both these stalwarts beaten by lesser experienced and lower-ranked players consistently.

All good things come to an end and the famed Lee-Lin rivalry may also be on its last leg. Will it meet its organic end or does it still have enough steam to resurface like how Federer-Nadal turned the clock back.

'Legend' is a term that is many a time used loosely in the field of sports.

However, in the annals of badminton, the rivalry between Malaysia's Lee and China's Lin will undoubtedly be christened with that moniker.

The Lee-Lin rivalry will always be legen (wait-for-it) dary. Legendary!


Published Date: Aug 17, 2017 11:05 am | Updated Date: Aug 17, 2017 11:05 am


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