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LONDON: Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei advances to the Olympics men's badminton finals after beating Chen Long of China.
THERE was more relief than jubilation on Lee Chong Wei's features as he sealed a second successive final appearance in the Olympics with an emphatic 21-13, 21-14 win over China's Chen Long at the Wembley Arena on Friday.
Cheng Long had been expected to give Chong Wei a massive test but the Malaysian, who is now one match away from becoming the first Malaysian to win Olympic gold, was just too determined for the China player.
Chong Wei and coaches Tey Seu Bock and Rashid Sidek got their tactics right and once Chong Wei took control, as had been the plan, there was to be no looking back.
"I can't believe how well I played as I had come into the Olympics not as prepared as I would have wanted," said Chong Wei after winning in 51minutes.
Victory was celebrated by first dropping to his knees, followed by pumped fists and then acknowledgement of the fans - the majority of who were behind Chong Wei.
"The pressure I was under was immense and I told myself that this was the final as I didn't want to have to pysche myself up for the third-place playoff, which would have been very difficult."
Seu Bock said Chong Wei had controlled the match exactly the way it had been planned.
"We wanted him to vary his game between fast and slow and that caught Chen Long off guard as he couldn't cope with Chong Wei's variations. The final is next (most probably against Lin Dan on Sunday) and Chong Wei will prepare as he did for this match, with focus and a sense of calm," said Seu Bock.
Rashid was as vocal as Seu Bock on the sidelines and said the focus now is on getting Chong Wei to improve on his silver medal finish in Beijing 2008.
"He is a step away and we must work hard to ensure that he goes one better. I believe he can," said Rashid, bronze medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Malaysia certainly hopes so.