PETALING JAYA: Could the Covid-19 pandemic have spelt the end of two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan’s (pic) career?
With his bid for a fifth Olympic appearance is all but over after the recent All-England, the 36-year-old Chinese superstar looks set to finally call it a day on an illustrious 20-year career which saw him win everything the world badminton has to offer.
Fans from around the world, particularly in China, are waiting to know if Lin Dan has made up his mind on retirement.
All signs are pointing towards that now that the door on the Olympic qualification seems to have been shut with all remaining qualifying tournaments leading to the April 30 cut-off date cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Lin Dan is now only the fifth-highest ranked Chinese. He is No. 26 in the standings behind Chen Long (No. 5), Shi Yuqi (No. 11), Huang Yuxiang (No. 21) and Lu Guangzu (No. 23).
A country can send a maximum of two shuttlers only if both are ranked in the top 16. Thus, Chen Long and Shi Yuqi are the two likely to represent China.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) have yet to address the implication of the suspension of tournaments but the world body did maintain earlier that there would be no extensions.
Former arch-rival Lee Chong Wei reckons Lin Dan should not have any regrets about coming up short on securing his fifth Olympic appearance.
“He has done all he can, ” said Chong Wei of the man who pipped him to the Olympics gold twice – in Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
“To be honest, it’s really not easy (to be the top two) in China.
“I know he wanted to make his fifth Olympic so much. He was hoping to break the record (of becoming become the first Chinese shuttler to feature in five Games).
“This is no easy feat, the Olympics only comes four years once. Five appearances, that’s more than 16 years of being at the pinnacle of world badminton!
“But I really don’t see any reason for Lin Dan to have any regrets. There’s nothing left for him to win, nothing for him to prove.”
Chong Wei believes it’s only a matter of time before Lin Dan finally hang up his racquet.
“I do not know if he has made up his mind on retirement, that’s for him to announce, ” said Chong Wei. “But I think he probably won’t continue playing (competitive badminton) beyond this year.”
Should Lin Dan call it quits, it will mark the end of the era of the “Four Heavenly Kings” which also include Denmark’s Peter Gade and Indonesia’s Taufik Hidayat.
But it would always be Chong Wei-Lin Dan rivalry that defines the last one-and-a-half decade of international badminton where the duo developed a strong mutual respect for each other.
Lin Dan, a five-time world champion, had confessed in an interview with BWF last year that it was Chong Wei’s “indomitable spirit” that inspired him to continue defying the odds to seek one last Olympic appearance in Tokyo.
Chong Wei, too, had at one point looked to be headed to his fifth Olympics in Tokyo as as a contender but an illness forced him into a premature retirement in June last year. He will, however, be going as chef-de-mission for Malaysia.
“I think he’s outstanding and tough, ” said Lin Dan, who also denied Chong Wei in the World Championships finals in London 2011 and Guangzhou 2013.
“He tried so hard and came close on many occasions to win the gold medal. In the end, he couldn’t fulfill his goal or the dream for Malaysia.
“Although I managed to achieve some good results, I really admire his indomitable spirit. In a way, he encourages me to achieve more, to break more records and create miracles, ” said Lin Dan.
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