PETALING JAYA: Lee Chong Wei may have retired from badminton, but it appears that his presence is still very much felt by arch-rival Lin Dan.
The 35-year-old Chinese superstar revealed how Chong Wei’s “indomitable spirit” has inspired him to continue defying the odds as he seeks his third and last Olympic glory in Tokyo next year.
Lin Dan, who also has five world titles to his name and is considered the greatest of all time, has heaped praises on Chong Wei despite ending his 19-year illustrious career without the Olympic gold and World Championship title.
It was the man nicknamed Super Dan who denied Chong Wei the Olympic gold at two editions in 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London).
He also pipped the Malaysian icon to two World Championships titles in London in 2011 and Guangzhou in 2013.
“I think he’s outstanding and tough, ” said Lin Dan, in an interview with Badminton World Federation’s magazine show Badminton Unlimited.
“He tried so hard and came close on many occasions to win the gold medal. In the end, he couldn’t fulfil his goal or the dream for Malaysia.
“In my opinion, that’s how cruel competitive sports can be. Regardless of that, he continued playing and worked even harder.
“His situation is very different from mine. Although I managed to achieve some remarkable results, I really admire his indomitable spirit.
“In a way, he encourages me to achieve more, to break more records and create miracles.”
Lin Dan’s quest to become the first shuttler to win three Olympic golds has become trickier as he’s currently ranked 17th in the world.
He has to battle it out with compatriots Shi Yuqi (No. 3) and Chen Long (No. 5) for the two tickets to Tokyo. Only the top two shuttlers from a nation can qualify provided they are in the top 16.
Lin Dan has been struggling to impress since his remarkable victory at the Malaysian Open in April.
The latest back-to-back three tournaments in Indonesia, Japan and Thailand saw him fail to get beyond the last 16.
Lin Dan will be looking to put the recent setbacks behind him by gunning for his sixth title at the World Championships in Basel from Aug 19-25.
He has a clear path until the third round where he’s most likely to meet defending champion Kento Momota.
In the four-minute video interview with Badminton Unlimited, Lin Dan also listed down greatest rivals from four different generations, which began with Denmark legend Peter Gade Christensen.“When I started my career, I played many memorable matches with Peter Gade, ” recalled Lin Dan.
“I can still remember clearly the All England final in 2003. I won the title in the end.
“To be able to defeat someone a few years older than me, a top player from Europe and also someone I watched on television while growing up was unbelievable.
“Next was Taufik Hidayat, followed by Lee Chong Wei.
“My career is very long so I met different opponents at different stages.
“Most recently my rival was my compatriot Chen Long as well as Viktor Axelsen of Denmark... followed by Shi Yuqi and Kento Momota.”
“So long as I continue playing, my opponents will keep increasing.”