SHANGHAI: China’s two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan, arguably the greatest badminton player of all time, has announced his retirement at the age of 36.
Lin Dan, who won gold at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games, will not compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which has been pushed back to next summer because of the coronavirus.
The end of Lin Dan’s glorious career comes just over a year after the retirement of his great rival and friend, Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei.The duo reigned over badminton for more than a decade and have only relinquished that hold in recent years.
Lin Dan, who had something of a “bad boy” reputation during his younger days and has several tattoos – unusual for Chinese athletes – ends with 666 singles wins and a glut of medals.
“Now I’m 36 years old, and my physical fitness and pain no longer allow me to fight side by side with my teammates,” Lin Dan added.
“My family, coaches, teammates and fans have accompanied me through many peaks and difficult troughs,” he said in a post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo that quickly went viral.
“Every forceful jump was a desire for victory. I have dedicated everything to this sport I love.”
Besides the Olympic golds, Lin Dan was also a five-time world champion and long-time world number one.
He also won six All England crowns, helped China win six Thomas Cup titles and five Sudirman Cup titles. He also helped the national side to three gold medals in the team event and two individual singles titles at the Asian Games.
“From 2000 to 2020, after 20 years, I have to say goodbye to the national team. It is very difficult to speak it out,” said Lin Dan.
He earned the nickname “Super Dan” at the peak of his career.
However, the left-hander’s career has tailed off in recent years as age and injuries took their toll.
Just last year, he rebuffed claims that he was about to retire following a series of first-round exits at tournaments.
Lin Dan has always said he was determined to reach the Tokyo Olympics, but his ranking of 19th in the world and the postponement of the Games made that dream unlikely.
At Rio 2016, Lin Dan lost in the semi-finals to Chong Wei.
As of yesterday afternoon, a hashtag on Weibo about Lin Dan’s retirement had been read at least 51 million times and praise for him poured in.
Bao Chunlai, who formerly represented China in badminton, said Lin Dan’s retirement took him by surprise.
“It’s somewhat sudden, but understandable,” he wrote on Weibo. “The last person of that generation who persevered has also walked to the ‘end’.
“My feelings are mixed. All the best, brother. The future will be better.”
Lin Dan’s wife Xie Xingfang, also a former badminton world champion, wrote online: “The 20 years we have walked with each other.... will continue.
“Let us work hard together.”
Lin Dan’s reputation was tainted in China in 2016 after it emerged he had an affair while Xingfang was pregnant. He apologised.
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