Lee's Beijing experience vital in mental war with Lin
by Dan Guen Chin
04:46 AM Jul 19, 2012
SINGAPORE - One of the most enduring images of the 2008 Beijing Olympics was Malaysian badminton star Lee Chong Wei looking crushed after his lopsided loss to China's Lin Dan in the men's singles final.
Lee entered the final carrying his country's hopes of a first Olympic gold in badminton.
But he was a bundle of nerves before the clash. He slept poorly the night before, and had even lost his appetite. He eventually was beaten 21-12, 21-8 by Lin, and ended up making a tearful public apology.
Lin and Lee, as the No 1 and 2 seeds, respectively, are tipped to meet again in the final at the London Games.
Since Beijing, Lee has beaten Lin four times in nine tournaments. Their last encounter was at this year's All-England final when Lee retired from a shoulder injury while down a game and trailing 2-6 in the second.
The question now is whether Lee has overcome his mental block against the Chinese star. Frederick Tan, Lee's former sports psychologist, believes that Lee's loss in Beijing was a major turning point in his mental fortitude.
"I was by his side after the loss to Lin. He was shattered," said Tan, 50, who worked with Lee until last year.
"All he could say was 'I am so tired'. The mental strain was evident. So in a way, the defeat in Beijing will prepare him for the battle in London.
"Now he knows what it takes to rise to the occasion. He is more matured now as a person and player, and it will serve him well."
Indeed, Tan thinks Lin, who wants a second Olympic gold to retire with a bang, will be under more pressure in London.
"Maybe Lin has the slight edge on the court as the record shows, but he now knows that Lee has the game to take him on and beat him," said the former director of the Penang Sports Council who is now working in Sarawak.
However, Tan believes Lee must block out memories of the ankle injury he came down with during the Thomas Cup finals in May, which sidelined him for three weeks, and threw a spanner in his preparations for the Olympics.
He believes the Malaysian star will be reminded of his injury by rivals and media at the London Games, and said: "I worry over how he will respond to it.
"My message to him is forget about the ankle injury. Treat it as something which never happened. Worrying about it will not help you."
The other thing that Lee must tune out is Lin's killer pre-match stare during the customary pre-match handshake at the net.
"That is his signal that he is ready for the fight and that he means business," said Tan.
"I told Lee before he left for London last week that he must stick to his daily pre-game routine which he has been doing for years, like his meal times, his warm-up sessions and the final relaxation period where he puts on his earphones and tunes everything out."
The question now is whether Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei has overcome his mental block against the Chinese star, Lin Dan. REUTERS