All England badminton 2011: Lee Chong Wei creates history

With both of Malaysia’s men’s singles and men’s doubles in the final, on a Sunday evening starting 8pm, it was one of rare nights where I was glued to the TV right till the early hours of Monday.

There was a chance to create another history: first chance for the double (men’s singles & doubles) in 15 years. In 1996, Rashid Sidek & Cheah Soon Kit/Yap Kim Hock fell tamely in the finals. The last time the double was successfully pulled off was 45 years ago in 1966 by Tan Aik Huang & Ng Boon Bee/Tan Yee Khan.

But Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong blew it in 62 minutes. 1st set was state of the art. Then cracked under pressure. There went my victory commentary that borrows from WC2006 Argentina-Serbia: “well, it’s been a pleasure watching KKK/TBH playing badminton at the highest level possible”.

On paper, they should’ve won it:
- led 16-11 in the decider
- we had previously lost only once to Boe/Mogensen, winning the other 7 encounters
- their confidence sky high after defeating 2 top pairs on route to the final: Olympic champions Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan and world champions Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng.

So what happened?

The Danes played faster and kept up the pressure.

Coach Rexy Mainaky summed it up:

The title could have been ours if Koo and Tan had pressed on after taking a 16-11 lead. And I think, they should have slowed down the game when the Danes started to win a few points in a row. They should have looked for some kind of breather to break the rhythm of their opponents. Unfortunately, they did not. The Danes had nothing to lose and took their chances well. We had better control from the start of the game but did not have a good finish.

But my mood was soon lifted as Lee Chong Wei became the first ever Malaysian to retain the All-England men single’s title. When Eddy Choong did it in 1956 & 1957, Malaysia was yet to be created. Also LCW is the first Malaysian/Malayan to make the final 3 years in a row since Eddy Choong (who made the final an incredible 6 years in a row between 1952 & 1957, winning 4). Ng Boon Bee/Tan Yee Khan won the men’s doubles 2 years in a row in 1965 & 1966.

More special is the fact that I’ve been watching Chong Wei-Lin Dan finals in countless big tournaments, and LCW always lost. But this time it was different.

Yes, he defeated his nemesis, his greatest rival, his bogeyman, Lin “Super Dan” Dan, the player some have called the greatest badminton player to have ever lived, fair and square.

Lin Dan is a 3-time world champion, the reigning Olympic champion and is the first and only player to have achieved the “Super Grand Slam” / “Golden Grand Slam”, having won all the major titles badminton has to offer: the Olympics, World Championships, Asian Games, All England, Asia Championships, World Cup, Thomas Cup and Sudirman Cup.

The Star reported that: “For the first time, Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei truly felt on top of the world” because for the first time ever, Chong Wei beat Lin Dan in a major final. Definitely most importantly, it showed that Chong Wei has the stuff to shake off the Lin Dan jinx which had plagued him for so long. This time, he did not crumble under pressure.

For sure, that 52-minute 21-17, 21-17 victory was truly a nail biter.

Right after, some notable tweets from well-known Malaysian personalities:

The Prime Minister tweeted:

LCW has done all Malaysians proud by winning the All England Championship. My wife n I spoke to him b4 n after the game.

Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted:

Lin Dan, mana breakdance robot kau yang hampeh tu? Haha! CONGRATEEEEES LCW!!!

Tony Fernandes tweeted:

Well done LCW – Win all england title. Far cry frm d olympics. Great game. Well done. True 1malaysia spirit at stadium

But the greatest tweet of the night must be the Prime Minister’s :-)

Sorry tmrw not public hldy. We hv 2 rejoice in LCW’s victory n at same time work hard so dat we hv more victories

And later:

To my tweeter friends , It is very costly to the nation to have a public holiday. We must not overdo it . We need to work hard .

As for Chong Wei, he can have a well-deserved break, at Outer Banks rentals perhaps, before going all-out for the big 2: the World Championships and the Olympics.

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