Monday, March 14, 2011


Lee Chong Wei took a call from Malaysia’s prime minister after successfully defending his All England Championships crown in Birmingham on Sunday.

“Good job,” Najib Tun Razak told Lee for the second year running. His words - midnight time in Kuala Lumpur - came minutes after Lee had beaten China’s Lin Dan 21-17, 21-17 in a pulsating final at a raucous National Indoor Arena on Sunday.

That’s how much badminton and the All England, one of five top-tier events on the world badminton tour, means to many people in Asia. Especially when the opponent is Lin, the sport’s Olympic champion.

Lin was one victory from becoming the first player of the open era to win five singles titles at the All England and had lost only six of his last 24 encounters with Lee. The Malaysian’s win, achieved with clever lifts and precision drops, has now intensified the rivalry between the pair, shouldered with deep respect.

"This All England title is something special to me after I won it last year for the first time," said Lee.

There is every likelihood that Lin and Lee, 27 and 28 respectively, will feature in the world and Olympic finals, with Britain benefiting from hosting both events over the next 500 days. It should be some end considering that Lee will retire after the Olympics.

How Britain could do with one of these two in their ranks. But Adrian Christy, Badminton England’s chief executive, said: “We have got our own Lin Dan and he is called Rajiv Ouseph.

“We haven’t had a top-10 singles player for many years and he’s in his early 20s. For a European singles player to be getting that close is testament to the real work and effort the coaches have put in.”

Despite failing to make the last eight in the five disciplines, Britain finally had an air of stability about its doubles’ partnerships this week with Yorkshire’s Gabby White the stand-out player.

White, 20, had to cope with a mixed partner, Robert Blair, still recovering from flu while her partnership with Jenny Wallwork in the women’s doubles is continuing on a upward path at world No 22.

Christy added: “Gabby is maturing into the talent that we always believed she had and is definitely a superstar in the making.”