Source: China State Council Information Office
The retirement of badminton legend Lin Dan has left fans wondering if they will ever witness his like again.
The 36-year-old two-time Olympic champion on Saturday announced he is hanging up his racket following a stellar career that has earned him a special place in the nation’s heart and won him global recognition as arguably the sport’s greatest of all time.
“From 2000 to 2020, that’s an entire 20 years. It’s time for me to say goodbye to the Chinese national team. And it’s actually so hard for me to make this announcement,” Lin, aka ‘Super Dan’, wrote on Weibo on Saturday.
“As a veteran of nearly 37 years of age, my physical strength and injuries will not allow me to fight with my teammates anymore. I’m grateful, but I’m reluctant to say goodbye. There are also regrets. In the future, I wish to spend more time with my family and find new ‘courts’ for other competitions in my life.”
Lin’s retirement sent Chinese social media into overdrive over the weekend, with related topics viewed over 250 million times in just three hours on Weibo.
Considering Lin’s stature in Chinese sporting history, the frenzy came as no surprise. His trophy cabinet is packed full of gold medals from two Olympic Games, five world championships, five Sudirman Cups (mixed team championship) and six Thomas Cups (men’s team championship).
These days, China no longer enjoys such dominance in the sport. So, amid the deluge of tributes and best wishes for Lin, many fans warned it could be a long time before Team China produces another such superstar.
Lin leaves the court with Japan’s Kento Momota ruling the roost. Having recovered from an injury sustained in a January traffic accident in Malaysia, world No 1 Momota is the hot favorite for gold at next year’s Tokyo Olympics. China’s hopes rest with Chen Long and Shi Yuqi.
At 31, reigning Olympic champion Chen no longer has age on his side, while the 24-year-old Shi’s struggles for consistency suggest he is unlikely to inherit Lin’s mantel.
However, in a testament to Super Dan’s influence on China’s new generation of players, Shi wrote on social media this weekend: “Respect to big brother Dan. He encouraged me to keep moving forward. Wish all the best for him.”
Despite seeing his “superpowers” wane in recent years, fans had held out hope of seeing Lin compete at a fifth Olympic Games and battle against the odds for a third title.
“I was super excited and proud to become a member of the Chinese national team back in 2000,” said Lin, who bows out ranked 19th in the world. “My family, coaches and teammates stayed with me through the highlights and doldrums of my career. My every jump is my thirst for victory.
“I’ve been through four Olympics and I never thought about quitting before. I gave all I had to the sport I love. I always told myself to keep going throughout every struggle in my career.
“I wish my sports life could have been longer. Instead of having better rankings in recent years, I just wanted to push my limits as a veteran and to always maintain the sporting spirit of never giving up.”
Now Chinese badminton will have to show the same fighting spirit as it bids to rediscover past glories.
Lin reigned on the world stage during a golden era for the sport, when, as one of the so-called “Top Four Kings”, he was pushed to ever greater heights by longtime rival Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, Indonesian prodigy Taufik Hidayat and Danish great Peter Gade.
Lin’s epic rivalry with Lee dates back to 2004 and spanned 40 matches, with Lin coming out on top in the head-to-head, 28-12.
Lee, who retired last June because of health reasons, led tributes to Lin over the weekend.
“Please believe that all the laughter, tears and promises are an unforgettable diary. My greatest opponent. Proud of you,” wrote Lee on Weibo. “We three are missing you for a long time!”
Lin also acknowledged his fabled duels with Lee, saying: “I’m grateful to my country that nurtured me, my coaches who trained me, my families who always stay with me, my fans who support me and my great opponents on the court who encouraged me to be better.
“I wish to tell all of you who are chasing your dreams: Stay hungry. Give it your best shot and go fight for your dream.”
Despite his creaking body and a slump in results in recent years, Lin had done exactly that in his bid to extend his career and compete at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Chinese Badminton Association said the postponement of the Games and the sport’s shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic had not helped Lin’s cause.
“After this year’s All England Open, Lin continued to train with the Chinese national team in Sichuan province. However, the restart plans of global tournaments have changed repeatedly and his injury still lingers. Lin felt that it was more and more difficult to continue training, and eventually he made the decision to retire,” the governing body said in a statement.
Zhang Jun, president of the Chinese Badminton Association, expressed his thanks to Lin for his contribution to the national team.
“Lin’s performance in training and competition, and his achievements, have proved that he is an excellent athlete,” said Zhang. “I hope that Lin’s new life after retirement will go well, and I hope he will not stay away from badminton and continue to work hard to promote badminton in a new way.”