ODENSE: China’s Lin Dan is one of the Famous Four players still making his presence felt in the international badminton stage.
But his glory days are numbered, according to Denmark’s former chief coach Steen Pedersen.
Lin Dan, Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, Peter-Gade Christensen of Denmark and Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei used to dominate the men’s singles scene for years – with their intense rivalry, great skills and domineering characters – on and off the badminton court.
The 2004 Athens Olympic Games champion Taufik, now 37, was the first to hang up his racquet and went on to build a badminton training centre – the Taufik Hidayat Arena in Ciracas, Jakarta, in 2012.
Christensen, 41, followed suit by retiring after the 2012 French Open and is running a badminton training centre in Aarhus after a brief stint as the chief coach of France.
The 36-year-old Chong Wei, who was outstanding in his superb win against Kento Momota of Japan en route to winning his 12th Malaysian Open title in July, unfortunately, is recovering from an early stage nose cancer.
The Malaysian is eager to return to competitive badminton but it all depends whether his body can take the punishing demands of the sport.
The two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan is quietly keeping the torch alive and on Tuesday, he battled for 61 minutes to beat Kantaphon Wangcharoen of Thailand in the Danisa Denmark Open to set up a meeting against K. Srikanth of India today.
The world No. 14 Lin Dan’s only title this year is the New Zealand Open and Pedersen believes the Chinese maestro will not be able to win big ones anymore.
“Lin Dan has done better than any other Chinese men’s singles players,” said Pedersen.
“Usually the lifespan of former Chinese singles greats is short but Lin Dan has changed the trend – probably because of the big money that comes with the sport nowadays.
“I’m amazed that he still feels the urge to play in tournament after tournament knowing how good he was and accepting the level he is playing at now.
“In my opinion, he can’t win big tournaments anymore. Maybe, he can pull one or two upsets and pave the way for others,” said Pedersen, who is now a badminton commentator.
“We saw how he lost to Momota, Lin Dan was outclassed (at the Japan Open). I do not enjoy watching Lin Dan’s matches anymore.
“I would like to remember him as how he was. Chong Wei was different, he played superbly to beat Momota in the Malaysian Open final. That was high-level badminton by Chong Wei.
“Lin Dan has lost his speed and should be joining Taufik and Peter in the retirement list soon.
“These four players are always referred to together, it was a time of strong singles players. And we must not forget Bao Chunlai of China and Lee Hyun-il of South Korea.”
Asked whether he saw a resemblance of another Famous Four this era, Pedersen said: “No, not at the moment. Chen Long is struggling. Momota has a chance to dominate.
“Viktor (Axelsen, Denmark) is not even close to Kento, he is lost, he has not beaten him in four years. The rivalry has to be close – it’s not at the moment.”