RIO DE JANEIRO • Chinese badminton superstar Lin Dan survived a major scare yesterday to set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash with Malaysian arch-rival Lee Chong Wei at the Rio Olympics.
Two-time Olympic champion Lin required three games and 1hr 8min to defeat ninth seed Srikanth Kidambi of India, while top-ranked Lee strolled to a routine victory against Chinese Taipei's Chou Tien-chen.
Lin, who is bidding for a third consecutive Olympic gold, won the first game easily 21-6, but succumbed in the second 11-21, before scraping the third game 21-18.
At one point "Super Dan", currently ranked third in the world but regarded by some as badminton's greatest player, was 8-11 down in the final game and in danger of crashing out of the Olympics.
"It was difficult for me because the audience were cheering for the Indian player," Lin told reporters.
"But at 11-8 I just focused on winning. I had no other thoughts."
Points Lin Dan gave up to ninth seed Srikanth Kidambi of India in the second and third sets after conceding only six in the first.
Minutes Lee Chong Wei took to dispose of Chinese Taipei's sixth seed Chou Tien-chen.
Competing in his fourth and probably final Olympics in Rio, the 32-year-old shuttler is going for a third singles gold after triumphing at his home Beijing Games in 2008 and again in London four years ago.
Lee had earlier turned his attentions towards Lin after hailing a routine win to set up the clash with his arch nemesis.
The Malaysian, who has never won a world or Olympic title, lost the last two Games finals to his Chinese rival and is desperate for that elusive gold.
He said: "At the start of the badminton competition, I don't think so much about the possibility of playing Lin Dan in the semi-finals. I just focused on my condition and match.
"But now, I'm thinking about Lin Dan," added Lee, who took just 42 minutes to complete a routine 21-9, 21-15 victory over sixth-ranked Chou.
The 33-year-old has fought his way back to the top of the rankings after returning from a eight-month doping ban last year and is taking a final shot at Olympic glory in Rio.
Lee, who tested positive for a forbidden anti-inflammatory drug at the 2014 world championships, admitted that he was feeling the burden of expectation as the badminton competition neared its business end.
"Being the world No. 1 means more pressure. A lot of top players are losing at this tournament, so I must be very careful," he said.
China's Chen Long plays Dane Viktor Axelsen in the other semi-final.