Year in Review 2020, Biggest Sports Stories: Chinese badminton superstar Lin Dan retires

China's Lin Dan, who was one of the biggest superstars of badminton having won two Olympic golds, five World Championships and six All England titles in a 20-year career, called time on his career in July.

FP Sports December 22, 2020 09:28:11 IST
Year in Review 2020, Biggest Sports Stories: Chinese badminton superstar Lin Dan retires

File image of shuttler Lin Dan. AFP

Editor's NoteIt's that time of the year already. Every end comes with an opportunity to look back and reflect, and while 2020, by general consensus, was a forgettable affair, sports did manage to conjure some moments of lasting relevance. From Liverpool ending their Premier League title wait to the mighty Indian cricket team crashing like never before in Adelaide to the passing away of some of sports' all-time greats, the field of play, even in a truncated calendar, produced a fair share of shock, surprise, and awe. In Firstpost's latest series, we take a look at some of the biggest sporting moments of 2020.

Having won two Olympic golds, five World Championships, and six All England titles in a 20-year career filled with 66 tournament victories, there is little argument that Lin Dan was contemporary badminton’s greatest star. Dan called time on his career in July this year citing fitness and injuries.

“From 2000 to 2020, after 20 years, I have to say goodbye to the national team. It is very difficult to speak it out,” Chinese media quoted Lin as saying. “I’ve dedicated everything to the sport I love. My family, coaches, teammates, and fans have accompanied me through many happy times and difficult moments.

“Now I’m 37 years old, and my physical fitness and pain no longer allow me to fight side by side with my teammates,” added Lin.

Besides individual medals, Lin was also instrumental in propelling the Chinese national badminton team to six gold medals in the Thomas Cup men’s team event and five titles in the mixed-team Sudirman Cup.

They say a great player makes everyone playing along side better. In the case of Lin, he made even those across the net better.

“Lin Dan was constantly in my head when I got back to training after every loss. I knew if I wanted to win important tournaments, I had to beat him. I couldn’t relax. Even when I was cramping up, I told my coach I wanted to continue training because Lin Dan was waiting for me. I was thinking about him all the time,” Malaysian badminton legend Lee Chong Wei revealed during a live interview session on social media earlier this year.

Theirs was a rivalry with plenty of mutual respect, badminton’s equivalent of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, if you will.

Lee was at the other side of the net when Lin won his two Olympic titles at Beijing 2008 and London 2012. But at Rio 2016, Lee finally got his own over Lin by beating him in the semi-finals. Unfortunately, badminton’s two transcendent stars will not face off at Tokyo Olympics next year.

By the end, form and age had started to erode his aura on the court, with first-round exits becoming commonplace over the past few years. With every country allowed to earn just two quotas in a category, Chen Long and Shi Yuqi were already miles ahead of Lin in the race to Tokyo when he decided to announce his retirement.

“With the ‘Super Dan’ curtain call, people cannot help but sigh,” China’s Xinhua news agency said before talking about Lin in the same breath as other Chinese sports superstars like tennis ace Li Na, basketball legend Yao Ming and hurdler Liu Xiang, who have all retired in the past 10 years. “The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has faded.”

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