Viktor Axelsen rises to a legendary status by beating the king of badminton, Lin Dan, in three remarkable sets: 15/21, 21/10, 21/17. A match that can symbolize the modification that will happen in men’s singles in a future without Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan.
Lin Dan from China is one of the best badminton players of all time, winning several world championships and two consecutive gold medals at the Olympic Games, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
At this Olympics he was back for what was to be his last, in order to reach an even more God-like status by winning three in row. But two players put an end to that dream, one of them was Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, who finally defeated his long-time rival in the semi-final, the other – 22-year-old Viktor Axelsen (Denmark).
His semi-final against China’s Chen Long, now Olympic champion 2016, showed that he has an extra level to reach. But in the bronze match against Lin Dan, Axelsen played like he ‘was’ the extra level. Going out on court, knowing what legend you have to beat to get the medal, Axelsen brought something extraordinary and won by working hard and having the guts and confidence to be confident in his game.
When Axelsen lost the first set, it seemed as if Lin Dan was going to take the medal without looking back. But the Dane’s comeback in the second set was incredible, and when he took the lead, Lin Dan let him go.
Axelsen was able to reach the extra level that was missing in the semi-final and he stole the medal from Lin Dan as soon as he got his match point. Leaving the Chinese who is so used to medals with none.
It was no surprise that the young Axelsen was out of his mind with emotions after beating one of his role models. To win bronze in the first Olympics that he attends must be amazing, and holds the promise of much greater badminton experiences from Axelsen in the future.
He is very clear on the fact that this is only the beginning; his dream is to be on top of the podium. This Olympics seemed to have brought him even more motivation than he had leading up to the tournament, leaving everyone with great expectations for Tokyo 2020.
His victory marks a great year for Danish and European badminton, including the Thomas Cup-win, Marin’s gold, Ellis/Langridge's bronze and Pedersen/Rytter Juhl’s silver. Young stars like Axelsen himself and Marin holds the promise of a bright future in European badminton, and a possibility for a European winning gold in both categories is not far out of reach.