By Nick Mulvenney
GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) – Malaysia’s badminton king Lee Chong Wei was pushed all the way by world number one Kidambi Srikanth but prevailed 19-21 21-14 21-14 to bring the curtain down on his Commonwealth Games career with a third men’s singles gold medal on Sunday.
The 35-year-old won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2010 but was robbed of the chance of a hat-trick when a hamstring injury forced him to pull out of the 2014 Games in Glasgow.
Sunday’s victory was by no means guaranteed given his first career loss to Srikanth in the mixed team final last week but Chong Wei drew on all his experience, and the skills that kept him as world number one for nearly four years from 2008.
“I lost to him in the mixed team event and I wanted to come back in the individual event. It’s not easy mentally,” he said.
“In one week I played him two times in the final. The first time I lost and the second time is the final in the individual. I think mentally I was very, very strong.
“I just came out and I forgot the team event and just focused.”
Chong Wei, who arrived in Australia with a 4-0 career record against Srikanth, said he never even thought about the 10-year age gap between him and his Indian rival.
“It’s only a number, right,” he shrugged. “I just forget my age.”
Long Malaysia’s number one sportsman, Chong Wei has never topped the podium at the Olympics or world championships with a career tally of seven silver medals in major championships.
His victory on Sunday takes his gold medal tally at the Commonwealth Games to five, including team titles in 2006 and 2010.
“This is one of my most memorable achievements because this will be my last Commonwealth Games,” Chong Wei added.
“I know how important this gold medal is for Malaysia. I won this for the whole Malaysian badminton team.”
There was also Malaysian success in the women’s doubles with Mei Kuan Chow and Vivian Hoo taking gold with a 21-12 21-12 victory over England’s Lauren Smith and Sarah Walker.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)