Olympics: Gold medal dream kept alive as Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei finally beats China's Lin Dan to reach badminton final

Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei celebrating after defeating China's Lin Dan in the men's badminton singles semi-final in Rio de Janeiro on Aug 19, 2016.
Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei celebrating after defeating China's Lin Dan in the men's badminton singles semi-final in Rio de Janeiro on Aug 19, 2016.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia falling to his knees after beating Lin Dan of China during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games badminton men's semi-final at Riocentro Pavilion 4 in Rio de Janeiro on Aug 19, 2016.
Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia falling to his knees after beating Lin Dan of China during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games badminton men's semi-final at Riocentro Pavilion 4 in Rio de Janeiro on Aug 19, 2016.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

RIO DE JANEIRO - The titanic clash between Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei - two of badminton's biggest names - and possibly their last, went the way of the Malaysian on Friday morning (Brazil time).

In a semi-final that had the billing of a final, Lee beat Lin 15-21, 21-11, 22-20 to book a place in the final against either China's Chen Long or Denmark's Viktor Axelsen.

Lin Dan got off the blocks fast and led throughout the first game, taking it 21-15 easily.

But the Chinese great quickly lost that momentum in the second game, allowing Lee to take a 11-2 lead after several uncharacteristic mistakes. The Malaysian eventually took the game 21-11 over a listless Lin.

Both players finally put up the contest most had expected them to in the deciding game, neck and neck in points throughout. Down 17-20, Lin saved three match points but could not save a fourth as he lost the match.

The duo have one of the biggest rivalries in sport, with Lin the victor 25 times in 36 previous encounters over more than a decade before the semi-final. The Chinese also stood in the way of Lee's attempt for Malaysia's first gold at the last two Olympics, winning the final in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.

Lin was the first man to successfully defend his title at the London Games. But Lee will now seek his - and his country's - first Olympic gold.