BEIJING: Li Yongbo, who led China’s national badminton team to the gold medal at six Olympic Games, is finally stepping down as head coach.
Fans have been calling for Yongbo’s retirement since China’s sub-par performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where they won only two gold medals – the lowest since 2000.
“After serving so many years in the post, I feel tired ... and I’ve realised it is time to step back and give the younger generation the opportunity to use their new thinking to lead the team,” Tengxun Sport quoted Yongbo as saying yesterday.
He will be reassigned along with some other coaching staff to an advisory panel with the Chinese Olympic Committee, the report said.
The national team did not issue a statement on the move and did not respond to requests for confirmation.
During his 24-year tenure as head coach, Yongbo saw China secure their position as the sport’s most successful country – winning 18 Olympic gold medals as well as numerous international tournaments.
But “Yongbo’s progressive winner-take-all mindset and outspoken personality have seen him in hot water constantly throughout his career,” according to China Daily.
Chinese badminton players have seen a fallow period, with former champions like Fu Haifeng and Lin Dan retiring or set to retire.
Last month, the team suffered their worst tournament in two decades at the All-England in Birmingham.
China captured only one title – the mixed doubles – through Lu Kai and Juang Yaqiong, which equalled the lowest total in two decades.
On social media, although most welcomed the news of Yongbo’s retirement, many also paid tribute to his illustrious career.
“People may focus on the negative news ... but the country’s brilliant success in the sport could not have happened without this great coach,” one fan wrote. — AFP