Lin Dan, possibly the greatest badminton player of all time, has retired from the sport. A 5-time World Champion and 2-time Olympic gold medalist, Lin is 36 years old and was hoping to compete in one last Olympics this year. However, with the postponement of Tokyo Games to 2021, it looked highly unlikely that he would be able to achieve that.
In a statement released on Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo, the legendary player stated: "My family, coaches, teammates, and fans have accompanied me through many peaks and difficult troughs. Every forceful jump was a desire for victory. I have dedicated everything to this sport I love
"'Persevere', I said to myself in every moment of suffering, so that my sporting career could be prolonged. Rather than simply pursuing rankings as I did when I was younger, in these years, I have been wanting to challenge the physical limits of an old athlete and practice the sporting spirit that I will never give up. But my physical abilities and pain no longer allow me to fight alongside my teammates."
Decline in form
The Chinese legend had been in a decline for the last three years and had managed to win very few tournaments. Known as 'Super Dan' for his exploits on the court, he had thrilled his country by winning the gold at Beijing Olympics in 2008 and then defending it four years later in 2012 in London.
For most of his glorious career, Lin Dan was involved in a great rivalry with Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei. These two dominated men's singles category in the same way Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal did in men's tennis. They faced each other in the Olympic finals of 2008 and 2012 as well as the World Championship finals of 2011 and 2013. Lin was the victor on all these occasions.
However, in the 2016 Olympics, the Malaysian got the better of his greatest adversary in the semi-finals but eventually, had to settle for his third successive silver by losing to another Chinese – Chen Long – in the final.
Overall, Lin won 66 titles in his storied career and this included badminton's 'super grand slam', that is, all nine major titles. These are: Olympic gold, World Championship winner, Asian Games gold, Asian Championship winner, All England Open champion, World Cup winner, Super Series Finals winner, Sudirman Cup winner, and Thomas Cup winner (the last two as a member of Chinese team).
Apart from his World Championship and Olympic victories, he also captured the prestigious All England Open title six times. His inability to win the Olympic gold in 2016 was an indication of his coming decline. He won just two titles the following year and then one each in the next two. The Malaysian Open in April 2019 was his last BWF World Tour win.
Lin got married to former women's World Champion Xie Xingfang in 2012 after a long courtship that began in 2003. He was known for sporting multiple tattoos including an unusual Christian Cross on his left arm. This was due to his grandmother having been a Christian.
His legendary rival Lee was playing relatively better in 2018 but was laid low by cancer, because of which he ended his career in 2019. With both these men, who share a great mutual respect for each other, gone, an era of men's badminton has clearly ended.