Heartbreak for Malaysia as Chen beats Lee
A CRESTFALLEN Lee Chong Wei and the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) were left apologising to the nation after their independence day celebrations were soured by the much-loved shuttler's defeat in the World Championships final.
World No. 1 Lee had been tipped to land his first major title in the absence of his great adversary, Lin Dan, but it was the double Olympic champion's Chinese compatriot, Chen Long, who dished out the punishment in Sunday's men's singles final in Denmark.
"I am disappointed with the way I played today. I guess my fans are also disappointed. I am sorry. I wanted so much to win it - but Chen Long was too aggressive," Lee, 31, was quoted as saying by the Malaysian media after the 21-19, 21-19 loss.
"I tried... but he was returning all my shots. I tried to break his rhythm and open up the game. I tried to play patiently, but I was making some simple mistakes. He was just unstoppable."
Lee came into the event with concerns over a thigh muscle injury - which had prevented him from defending his Commonwealth Games crown - and was also caught in a row between BAM and his coach.
Men's singles coach Rashid Sidek was banned from travelling to Denmark, but then allowed to work with his shuttlers after Malaysia's Sports Minister stepped in to broker a peace deal.
It appeared to do the trick, as twice Olympic runner-up Lee raced through to the final without dropping a game, raising hopes that Malaysia's favoured son would finally deliver a major title on the significant day.
But the tall Chen, bronze medallist at the London Olympics two years ago, proved too strong, as he extended China's stranglehold on the men's title to seven consecutive championships, leaving Malaysia still waiting for a first.
"I am disappointed because we have failed to end a 37-year drought in the championships," said BAM deputy president Mohamad Norza. "I sympathise with Chong Wei, who tried his best to win the title.
"I would also like to apologise to the people of Malaysia because we ended up with only a runner-up spot on a day when Malaysians celebrated independence day."