MALAYSIA – Fifteen years ago in a packed Kuala Lumpur stadium, rising stars Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei met in a final for the first time, setting the stage for what would become badminton’s greatest rivalry.
Malaysia’s Lee, at the time 22, reached the floor, punched the air and blew kisses to the crowd after his see-sawing, 88-minute 17-15, 9-15, 15-9 victory, when he fought back from behind in the first and last games.
It was an extremely tense start for a match-up that would span two Olympic finals and two world championship deciders and drew a new generation of fans.
But the match would remain one of the high points for Lee, who lost his four world and Olympic finals against the Chinese great and retired last year without winning either of the sport’s top two titles.
Lee, now 37, and Lin, 36, played 40 times in total, with the Chinese player convincingly winning their head-to-head 28-12. The 2008 and 2012 Olympic title matches were among the most memorable showdowns between the men, who both enjoyed long spells as world No. 1.
Lee described his nemesis, who is still playing, as a “legend”.
“His titles speak for themselves. We have to salute him,” he said.