GLASGOW: Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen fulfilled a childhood dream by beating the legendary Lin Dan in straight games to claim the men’s singles gold at the World Championships in Glasgow on Sunday.
At 33, Lin was going for a record sixth title, but he had to settle for second-best after a 20-22, 16-21 defeat. He had a game point at 20-19 up in the first game, but always trailed in the second.
Axelsen is the third Dane to claim the men’s singles crown. Flemming Delfs won the inaugural 1977 title and Peter Rasmussen was a winner, also in Glasgow, 20 years ago.
“It was my dream to be in a world final,” said Axelsen, the 2014 world and 2016 Olympic bronze medallist. “But it is unbelievable to beat Lin Dan. I have been watching him for years.
“Today, I maybe appeared confident, but inside I was shaking like a little child.”
At the end of the match, the 23-year-old Axelsen clutched his head in disbelief and then collapsed onto the court.
For Lin, it was a tough defeat.
“If I had won the first game, the result might have been different,” said the Chinese star. “But in the second, all the pressure was on me.”
As to his future, he was unclear.
“I don’t have time to think,” he said. “I go home tomorrow and the Chinese National Games start the day after.
“Then I play in the Japan Open. After that, I have no plans. It will be difficult to play in the World Championships at 34.”
For Axelsen, who defeated Olympic champion Chen Long in the semi-finals, the future could not be brighter.
“It is great to know that all the hard work has paid off,” said the strapping 6’4” (1.93 metres) player.
“Chen Long and Lin Dan have won all the major championships and they inspire me. But I remain humble. Some people say I am too tall for singles, but I know I can improve. Today I am just so happy.”
In a superb women’s singles final, Nozomi Okuhara became the first Japanese player to win a world gold singles medal with a stunning 21-19, 20-22, 22-20 victory over India’s Pusarla V Sindhu.
The match lasted 110 minutes – easily the longest of the championships – and neither player could have given more. In the end, the tenacious Okuhara came out on top.
“I hope this win will inspire others,” said the diminutive 22-year-old.
“The third game was so close and I was absolutely exhausted. But I decided to try and enjoy it and I could see that she was very tired and was struggling. My attitude got me through.”
The second game ended with the rally of the match, lasting over 50 shots, and it was Sindhu who won it with a great drop-shot.
But the Indian started to irritate both the crowd and the umpire by going for the towel and taking too much time between shots. Eventually, at 12-12 in the third, she was given a warning.
Okuhara had lost to Sindhu in the semi-finals of the Olympic Games last year in Rio de Janeiro and revenge was sweet.
“I learned a lot from that match,” she reflected. “Today I changed my strategy and tried to keep her moving more. My fans were also great. The atmosphere was amazing.”
The only other Japanese gold at a World Championships came from Etsuko Toganoo and Emiko Ueno in the women’s doubles at the very first 1977 championships.
Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota had a chance to repeat that success, but they had to settle for silver after losing 18-21, 21-17, 15-21 in the final to China’s Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan.
China collected a second gold in the men’s doubles with Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan scoring a comfortable 21-10 21-17 win over the relatively new and unseeded Indonesian pair, Mohammad Ahsan and Rian Agung Saputro.
But Indonesia did claim a title, Olympic champions, Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir, snatching the mixed doubles from Chinese top seeds, Zhieng Siwei and Chen Qingchen. — AFP