COVID-19 has had a nearly unprecedented impact on the sports world. On Tuesday, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were officially postponed, and athletic seasons everywhere are being halted in their tracks. But for one badminton legend, that impact may be final.
Lin Dan, with two back-to-back Olympic gold medals and five singles world championship titles spanning two decades, may be the most successful player the sport has ever seen. But recent matches have shown Lin losing ground to younger competitors.
“My goal is always the Tokyo Olympics and that doesn’t change anyway,” Lin had vowed in the face of diminishing performance. “All I’ve done and what I will endeavour to keep doing in training and competitions is to try to qualify for Tokyo. Knowing the journey will be extremely difficult, I will try as hard as I can.”
It was a powerful statement for the 36-year-old, who had hopes for one final Olympics run, in what would have been his fifth consecutive games. Lin is currently the only player out of the “Big Four” badminton legends to remain active. If he retires as expected, it will be the end to a golden era of badminton that started in the early 2000s.
After losing to rival Chen Long in November, he said, “I think it’s too early to talk about retirement. I won’t give up trying to qualify for the 2020 Olympics until the last minute.”
However, with all qualifying competitions suddenly cancelled, it’s now impossible for Lin to rank in time for the Games. With that major milestone eliminated, it seems his 20-year competing streak is coming to a close.
China’s Year in Sports 2019: MMA Champs, Weird Mascots and That NBA Controversy
Currently, the hashtag #ShouldLinDan retire is has over 710 million hits on Weibo. Fans on social media are celebrating his achievements and expressing their desire for him to finally put his storied career to rest.
Weibo user 黄建宏koala wrote, “You have already earned success and fame. What else is there to prove? You are a legend.”
Another comment reads, “Metabolism is a natural law. It’s nice to be happy at this age!”
We highlight our top stories each week in an email newsletter that goes out every Monday - hot, fresh, and straight to your inbox.
Don't worry, we don't spam