Badminton: Nearly-man Lee to carry the burden for Malaysia again
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A nation's hopes of Olympic glory can be a burden for the toughest of athletes but few can know of the pressure that befalls badminton's world number one Lee Chong Wei.
The loser of successive gold medal duels in London and Beijing, Lee will bid to banish eight years of heartbreak at the Rio de Janeiro Games and end Malaysia's long wait for an Olympic champion.
Nearly a decade at the top has made Lee a rock star of the sport and a huge celebrity in Asia, but his career has been haunted by agonizing near-misses on the world's biggest stages.
In human form, the agony is Lin Dan, the Roger Federer of the sport who trounced Lee in the Beijing final and edged him in a nerve-shredding re-match at Wembley Arena in London.
Lee was two points from gold in London, but the Chinese slammed the door shut with three perfectly played points to leave his opponent crushed once again.
Lee's big-match woes have come to embody Malaysia's frustration at the Games.
Athletes from the steamy Southeast Asian nation of 30 million have mounted the Olympic podium six times but never climbed to the top.
Underscoring the country's badminton fervor, five of the medals were won by its shuttlers, a decent record given the sport only joined the Olympic program in 1992. Continued...