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Families beam with pride

KUALA LUMPUR — It was a joyous occasion for the Tan family in Amanah Park, Tawau, last night after Tan Wee Kiong added another medal to the Olympic trove when he bagged a silver medal with his partner, Goh V Shem.

Tan’s younger brother, Wee Tat, 24, said it was an emotional moment for the entire family including their mother Tan Yok Hua to watch Wee Kiong celebrating his performance yesterday.

“We are extremely proud of his achievement and believe he has given his best during the match,” said Wee Tat.

“My brother is still my hero because he always goes the extra mile in whatever he does and he never gives up.”

Tan’s fiancee, Chia Shi Leng, said watching him and Goh play was nerve-wracking.

“It was an intense match but I know they had fought hard to make Malaysia proud,” she said.

The atmosphere in Goh’s house in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur, was equally intense with more than 30 friends and family watching the match.

Goh’s father, Ricky Goh, 57, said he was immensely proud as his son had wowed the world by standing toe-to-toe with the best.

“After years of pouring his blood, sweat and tears, he has stood among badminton giants and slugged it out like a true champion,” he said.

“I have always known he was meant to be there since the day he picked up the racket and after seeing him on the court tonight, he will be recognised as among the best in the game.’’

Earlier in Kuala Lumpur, the crowd at Delay No More, a retaurant in Hartamas Shopping Centre, including Lee Chong Wei’s elder brother Chong Hoon, 43, watched on tenterhooks at each of Chong Wei’s smash and graceful save.

Following the match, a visibly relieved Chong Hoon said the entire duration was agonising.

“I hardly watch his matches sitting down, I cannot handle the tension. Whenever he comes on, I tend to pace just to rid myself of the anxiety,” he said, adding this was one of the few matches he paid as much attention as possible.

“The match gave me sleepless nights. One more round of this anxiety, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world knowing that he potentially will come back with a gold medal,” he said.

At the Yayasan Khazanah 10th anniversary dinner in Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had nothing but praise for Chong Wei after the event was temporarily halted so the guests could watch the action on three large screens in the ballroom and cheer on the Malaysian ace.

“I am delighted to be here with all of you tonight. My presence here has been made much more delightful with the victory of Datuk Lee Chong Wei, although in a nail-biting way, but what is important is that at the end of the match he was the victor.”

India’s badminton heroine smashes out

RIO DE JANEIRO — Spanish badminton world No 1 Carolina Marin defeated Indian shuttler Pusarla Venkata Sindhu in three games to win Olympic gold in the women’s singles last night.

Marin, who celebrated almost every victorious point by shrieking at the top of her voice, lost the first game 19-21 but grabbed the second 21-12 before clinching gold with a 21-15 win in the decider.

It was a first gold medal for the 23-year-old Spaniard, who was told off by the umpire on several occasions during the match because of the level of her screeching.

The third and final game was locked at 10-10 before Marin went 14-10 ahead.

It was a gap Pusarla could not bridge as the Spaniard went to 20-15 before finishing off her Indian counterpart in an engrossing encounter.

The 21-year-old Hyderabadi hard-fought silver was India’s second medal of the Rio Olympics after female wrestler Sakshi Malik claimed bronze on Wednesday.

She had earlier sent Indian fans into a frenzy by blasting through Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara to reach the gold medal decider. — AFP

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Chong Wei slays Lin Dan in dramatic match

RIO DE JANEIRO — Lee Chong Wei has finally slain the demon that is Lin Dan as he marched into the men’s singles final by handing the Chinese great his first Olympic defeat in 12 years.

It was a superb performance by Chong Wei, who now stands on the cusp of winning his first gold medal after runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2012 by beating the two-time defending champion 15-21, 21-11, 22-20 in 79 minutes.

But, it won’t be easy as today, he faces Chen Long of China who defeated Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen 21-14, 21-15.

For now, we can rest easy. He has taken a giant step and done what no one has done since 2004. But for a brief moment, it looked like it wouldn’t happen as memories of his London collapse from four years ago came flashing back.

Then, he was on the verge of a historic gold medal but could not finish the job and lost 21-15, 10-21, 19-21.

Last night, he threw away three match points to allow Lin Dan to level at 20-all after trailing 20-17.

It was only at his fourth match point that he managed to kill the game, sending a smash which Lin Dan failed to retrieve.

Chong Wei fell to his knees in triumph then celebrated wildly with the fans. He even had time to hug his great rival. The pair probably faced each other for the
last time.

“It was not easy as we played one match then rested two days. Played another and rested for another two days. It was quite taxing,” admitted Chong Wei.

“But I knew I had to focus.

“I did think about London a bit but I never let that bother me. I knew what I had to do.

“I spoke to Lin Dan after the game. He said, well done. We are both 33 and may not be around for the next Olympics. It was good to battle him.”

Yesterday’s win was only Chong Wei’s 12th in 37 meetings against his rival but more importantly, it was his third consecutive victory and an indication of his evolution as a player and vindication of him changing his playing style.

He has shelved his all-court style for a more aggressive approach aimed at killing points quicker, conserving energy as Father Time creeps up.

It is something Lin Dan has done as well.

Chong Wei’s speed, power and amazing reflexes are still there but his defence, which Lin Dan had always found a way to pierce, has improved, proven by the last three wins.

Two giants met in Rio and one fell.

Now, Chong Wei has to finish the job and cement his legacy. On this form, he should do it.

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Silver moment for men’s pair

RIO DE JANEIRO — The wait continues.

Tan Wee Kiong-Goh V Shem fell to Fu Haifeng-Zhang Nan in the men’s doubles final this morning.

They gave it their all but the Chinese pair won 16-21, 21-11, 23-21.

The two 27-year-old Malaysians had promised to win the gold, but unfortunately fell short despite a valiant effort against foes who were former Olympic and world champions, albeit with different partners.

The Malaysians began slowly before getting their act together. Once they took a 9-8 lead, they never looked back and wrapped up the first game in 20 minutes.

They got too excited in the second game and were left behind by the rampant Chinese who needed 18 minutes to draw level.

In the decider, the Chinese were once again the aggressors and race to an early lead before going into the interval 11-8 ahead.

The change of sides worked wonders for the Malaysians and they finally drew level at 12-12 but the Chinese pair upped the pace to inch ahead 13-12.

They temporary lost the lead at 18-17. They then survived two match points as the Malaysians lost their composure to lose 23-21.

It was China’s first badminton gold in Rio. They had swept the board in London but can only win a maximum of two in Brazil after failing in the women’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

Our nation took part in the 1956 Melbourne Games as Malaya. Malaya it still was in Rome four years later before the formation of Malaysia in 1963. We started competing as Malaysia in Tokyo the following year.

We endured barren spells until 1992 when badminton was finally admitted as a medal sport, 20 years after it made its debut as a demonstration sport in Munich.

The Sidek brothers — Razif and Jalani — won our first medal by finishing third in Barcelona in the men’s doubles with younger brother Rashid winning another bronze in the men’s singles four years later in Atlanta.

In the same Games, Cheah Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock won silver in the men’s doubles.

Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004) came and went without a medal until Lee Chong Wei captured silver in the men’s singles in Beijing.

In London four years ago, Chong Wei once again won silver in the men’s singles while Pandelela Rinong grabbed a bronze in the 10m platform diving event.

Earlier in Rio, Malaysia collected two silvers through Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (mixed doubles), Pandelela-Cheong Jun Hoong (10m platform synchronise) and a bronze from cyclist Azizulhasni Awang in the keirin event.

Pandelela pledges renewal

PANDELELA RINONG has promised to take better care of her body as she looks towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Four years after winning a bronze medal in the 10m platform in London, Pandelela returned to the Olympics as one of the favourites in her pet event.

She hit new heights 11 days ago when she won silver in the 10m platform synchronised event with Cheong Jun Hoong — coincidentally Aug 9 was the four-year anniversary of her bronze medal win in London — and much was expected of her on Thursday.

But Pandelela admitted her injuries caught up with her as she “didn’t feel good” after her third dive and denied feeling the pressure as many expected her to retain the bronze she won in London.

“No pressure at all. I was happy and proud to be competing and reaching the final. If you look at the scores, you can see it was a tight contest even from the preliminary round,” said the heavily-bandaged Pandelela.

“I ache and hurt all over but when I’m up there (platform) I’m focused and don’t feel a thing. I must learn to manage the injuries to extend my career for as long as possible.”

Pandelela has been having problems with her back, shoulders and waist but said she doesn’t want to cite them as excuses.

“It was not my day. Mentally I was prepared but physically, despite all the good work by the team and support staff, I could not deliver,” said the 23-year-old Bidayuh.

“I’m delighted I contributed a silver with Jun Hoong but sad with my individual result. I would also like to thank all those who believed in me. I know in Sarawak there are viewing parties … thanks for staying up … I know it’s early in the morning and your support means so much to me.”

Meanwhile, over at the golf range, Kelly Tan and Michelle Koh had a better day but are still in the bottom half of the draw.

Kelly shot a one-under 70 to move up to 50th on six-over 148 while Michelle shot even par to remain eight-over 150 and tied for 52nd.

South Korea’s Park In-bee took over the lead from Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, with a second consecutive 66 to be on 10-under 132 and a one stroke lead over American Stacy Lewis.

Ariya is tied for eighth after an even par round left her on six-under 136.

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Bitah set to move ahead

IT was not the result she wanted but the smile on Nur Dhabitah Sabri’s face was as wide as the gulf in standard between the Chinese divers and the rest of the field.

Dhabitah was the best-placed Malaysian in the women’s 10m platform final, finishing ninth while London 2012 Games bronze medallist Pandelela Rinong had a day to forget, placing 11th out of 12 divers.

Ren Qian and Si Yajie dominated to take gold and silver, leaving Canada’s Meagan Benfeito a distant third.

Ren Qian collected 439.25 points while Si Yajie had 419 points, They were the only two divers to break the 400-point barrier.

Benfeito had 389.20 points. Pandelela collected 330.45 points and Dhabitah 338.00 points.

“I’m so happy to be here despite the result. The whole world is watching the Olympics and I’m so blessed to have entered the final,” said Dhabitah.

“There have been several seniors who competed in past Olympics without getting to the final on their debut. I feel honoured to compete alongside Pandelela,” exclaimed the rising star.

Asked if she was surprised to finish ahead of the Sarawakian, Dhabitah replied: “Of course. She is the nation’s diving queen. I was lucky.”

On her ever-smiling demeanour, she said: “I enjoy smiling as it helps to release tension. Some may say I’m not serious if I smile after a disappointing performance but it’s okay, I take that as positive comments.

“I love diving, I love training and I love competing. My smile reminds me of the things I love.”

The 17-year-old, who is the youngest Malaysian athlete at the Rio Olympics, said she will now focus on her studies. She sits of her SPM examination later this year.

“It’s hard studying when I’m away from school but I have to. I actually hate it but …

“I’m not sure if I will get any extra time off for school as I need to continue training,” said Dhabitah.

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Refugee team immortalised in mural

THE portraits of all 10 members of the first Olympic refugee team now have a permanent place on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.

Brazilian artists Rodrigo Sini and Cety dedicated a spray-painted mural to the refugee athletes as a way of highlighting their importance.

“For me, they’re already gold medal champions,” Sini said while taking a short break from putting the finishing touches on the mural, which covers a 100 sq ft high and wide wall on Olympic Boulevard in the redeveloped port district.

“There is no medal that justifies the pleasure or the weight each of them carries, for the story each of them has, for the determination and courage they all had when they had to abandon their home countries to restart their lives somewhere else.”

The team of six men and four women includes athletes competing in swimming, judo and athletics. Five are from South Sudan, two from Syria, two from the Democratic Republic of Congo and one from Ethiopia.

During the opening ceremony on Aug 5, the refugee athletes marched into the games to thunderous applause under the Olympic flag.

From Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini to South Sudanese runner Rose Nathike Lokonyen, the athletes have been big crowd pleasers in Rio, especially as their stories of survival have spread.

Juliana Luna, who works as the #TeamRefugees Snapchat host and with the New York-based Purpose group, which helped bring the mural project to fruition, said the artwork was meant to compel people to think about the plight of some 65 million displaced people around the world.

“I hope they feel inspired. I hope they ask questions. ‘Who are these people? Who are these faces?’ These are the faces of hope. These are the faces of overcoming the struggle,” said Luna. — Reuters

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New world power

GONE are the days of men’s hockey domination by heavyweights Germany, Netherlands and Australia.

Argentina’s stunning 4-2 victory over Belgium in today’s final signals the birth of a new generation of hockey stars and a style of play sure to shake up the hierarchy for years to come.

Long playing in the shadow of a much-celebrated women’s team, Argentina’s men leave Rio with their first Olympic hockey medal.

They proved too strong for a brave Belgium thanks to a 10-minute goal blitz in the first half in a close-fought battle between two teams few expected to make the final.

Belgium’s silver was its best finish at the Games in 96 years. It last took home bronze at Antwerp 1920.

Both teams had beaten the odds to make their first Olympic final. Belgium eliminated world No 2 Netherlands 3-1, only to see Argentina rout defending champion Germany 5-2.

London and Beijing gold medallist Germany was reduced to scrapping it out for third place with the Dutch — two-time Olympic champion.

Germany prevailed 4-3 on penalties after the match ended 1-1.

At a tournament where hockey struggled to fill seats and had its place on the Olympic programme questioned by organisers, the gold medal showdown was a breath of fresh air.

It was end to end stuff with Belgium’s potent attacking game and Argentina’s high pressing, counterattacking flair making for a great spectacle.

Argentine supporters lined the stands in blue and white, erupting in song as the final whistle blew.

Dalilah’s golden run

IT has always been a tale of near-misses and heartache for American women in what is one of the most demanding events in track and field.

Since the 400m hurdles were introduced for women at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, US runners have taken silver on no fewer than five occasions.

Dalilah Muhammad, the fastest woman this year over the distance, ended the years of agony blasting out of the blocks and holding on to a commanding lead for a deserved gold in 53.13s.

“The reality of winning is even better than the dream; Olympic champion, in front of my name,” the 26-year-old said.

“Being the first American to win this title adds a bit of extra sparkle.”

Despite her form this season, a question mark remained over her inexperience but she proved everyone wrong.

Sara Slott Petersen of Denmark took silver in 53.55s while Dalilah’s teammate Ashley Spencer claimed bronze in 53.72s.

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De Grasse ready for big stage

RIO DE JANEIRO — While the people who run athletics are dreading the day Usain Bolt leaves their stage, Canadian Andre de Grasse must be licking his lips at the prospect after emerging as the man most likely to fill the void.

De Grasse chased Bolt home for silver in the 200m final, having taken a bronze in the 100m last weekend.

Bolt, who turns 30 tomorrow, likely to hang up his spikes after next year’s world championships, the 21-year-old De Grasse could be the face of the next generation.

De Grasse showed in the semifinal he has the temperament for the big stage when he took on Bolt in a laughing match as they hurtled for the line together, refusing to slow down despite the pleas of the Jamaican.

De Grasse was not fazed and said he had just wanted to make the greatest sprinter in history work a bit harder.

In the 200m final, De Grasse ran a superbly controlled race to finish second in 20.02s behind Bolt’s 19.98s, well clear of Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre in 20.12s.

Having also taken a share of a bronze in the 100m in last year’s world championships — Canada’s first global sprint medal since 1999 — and claimed a sprint double in the Pan-Am Games, it is clear De Grasse is a big stage performer.

He has the times, too, with Rio personal bests of 9.91s, second in Canada only behind Donovan Bailey’s 1996 gold-winning 9.84s and 19.80s, a Canadian record.

Asked if he would miss Bolt or be sad to see him go, De Grasse said: “A little bit of both.

“Definitely I love competing against him, it’s an honour to be a part of history, of what he’s accomplished in his career but overall, if his time is up, I guess a new person has to come in there.

“But I obviously have to continue to work hard and always bring my ‘A’ game because it’s not going to be easy.”

The Canadian also showed he is not the sort of athlete to settle for second-best, even when second place is to Bolt.

“I’m really happy with two medals but my race today could have been better,” he said.

“I came off the bend and tried to do something, tried to go, but maybe I used up too much energy in the semi-final.”

For a man born six years after the 1988 Olympics, the name of Ben Johnson probably does not feature much in his thinking, but an older generation of fans will be willing De Grasse to push that 100m best under 9.79s.

That was the magic, annulled, but-ever present drug-fuelled time Johnson posted to win in Seoul before subsequently being banned.

Perhaps instead they should dwell on another altogether more innocent era, as the last time Canada claimed a medal in an Olympic 200m final was when Percy Williams won in 1928. — Reuters

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