KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan of China are deadly rivals on the badminton court. But all those years of trying to outdo each other has seen them develop a special bond born of mutual respect.
This great rivalry and unique friendship, on and off the court, is good for the sport, says Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) vice president David Wee.
David, who was the Malaysian team manager for the final leg of the Super Series Tour in Shanghai last week, had the privilege to witness the close relationship behind the rivalry between the world’s two greatest players.
He was quite surprised with Lin Dan’s ‘gentle’ side – especially after the four-time world champion’s 19-21, 21-12, 21-11 win over Chong Wei in the semi-final of the China Open in a match that lasted one hour and 15 minutes.
After the match, Lin Dan, known for his arrogant demeanour on court, sportingly gave his Malaysian archrival a pat on the back for giving him a tough time.
“After the rub down, Lin Dan paid Chong Wei a visit in the changing room. He shook Chong Wei’s hand for the rousing battle and they exchanged pleasantries,” said David.
“Lin Dan even brought a few T-shirts for Chong Wei to sign. His wife (Xie Xingfang) and some friends were with him and they were happily snapping pictures. It’s nice to note that there is such camaraderie between two great rivals. I guess this is the beauty of sports.”
David said that the friendship was acknowledgement of the mutual respect the two players had for each other.
“Over the years, Chong Wei has narrowed the gap on Lin Dan and the Chinese player knows it. In fact, in the China Open, Lin Dan had to work hard for every point although the scoreline in the second and rubber games may indicate otherwise.
“Chong Wei was in excellent form, sending shots deep into the corner of the court but Lin Dan was able to retrieve them all. Only a thin line separates the duo and it is good to note that they bring out the best in each other. This is good for the game.
“Lin Dan’s recent exploits show that he has improved on his fitness.
“Chong Wei will now have to counter it by working harder on his own fitness and game. This certainly makes the clashes between these two players something to look forward to.
“I will be submitting my report on Chong Wei to the council on Dec 17.
“Chong Wei has reached the final of every tournament he has played in this year except for the last two Opens in Hong Kong and China, where he lost in the semi-finals to Lin Dan. It is still an exceptional performance. I cannot think of anyone who has been that consistent in a sport that is physically so demanding.”
Prior to the China Open, Lin Dan had also beaten Chong Wei in the Hong Kong Open semi-finals and the finals of the South Korea Open and World Championships. Chong Wei, however, showed that the Chinese superstar was not altogether invincible when he beat his nemesis in defending the All-England title in March.
The duo are expected to meet for one last time this year during the Super Series Masters Finals in Liuzhou from Dec 14-18. Fans can expect another clash of the titans in a fitting climax to the season.