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Lin Dan's retirement: celebrating the legacy of Super Dan

With Lin Dan deciding to retire from badminton this Saturday, it's time to look back at the legacy and admire the brilliance that the Chinese have left behind. Here's a look at Lin Records and biography.

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Last updated: 08.07.2020
Lin Dan Badminton | Sports Social Blog

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Lin Dan's career is easily the most storied of the sport - two Olympic gold medals, five World Championship titles, and 666 career wins, spanning over two decades. The Chinese announced his retirement on Saturday to bring down the curtains on a splendid career where he achieved everything that was there to be won - multiple times. 


No player in the history of the sport had more than two world championship titles before 2006. Lin went on to win the next five of the seven editions. No other player in the world had won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the singles event before 2012, when Lin Dan achieved it in London. 

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Lin is, in fact, the only player in the history of the sport to complete a 'Super Grand Slam' by winning all nine major titles in world Badminton: Olympics, World Championships, World Cup, Thomas Cup, Sudirman Cup, Super Series Masters' Finals, All England Open, Asian Games and Asian Championships. He achieved this feat in 2011 itself.


And for all the lovers of mathematical symmetry, the 36-year-old finished with 666 career wins and 66 titles. 


In pic: An ecstatic Lin Dan


Let's have a look at Lin Dan's major trophy cabinet:


Lin Dan's major titles:


Events

No of gold medals

Olympic Games

2 (2008, 2012)

World Championships

5 (2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013)

All England Open

6 (2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2016)

Asian Games (individual)

2 (2010, 2012)

Thomas Cup

6 (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2018)



The Chinese star claimed his first international tournament title in 2002 at the Korean Open. and soon after he climbed up to the top of the rankings with victory in Denmark, Hong Kong, and China Open. He was the world number one for the first time in February 2004 and lived up to the expectations by winning his first All England Championships the following month. 


Beaten finalist, Peter Gade (another legend of the game), called him 'Super Dan' after their match in Birmingham, and the name stuck. 


Here are certain aspects along with the reasons which put him in a different league altogether:



Physicality and fitness:


Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei are the ones who are often held responsible for bringing in the great amount of physicality in the game. It was Lin Dan's fitness which created the massive gulf between him and everyone else at the peak of their career. 


It often seemed as though he had figured everyone out. It was as if he had thought, 'I will just keep on playing the rallies and everyone else will tire out.' 


Another notable incident involving Lin Dan was the weight of his racquet. While most players prefer a lighter racquet, Lin Dan preferred a heavy one, even later on in his career. His physicality allowed him to hold the racquet easily and that way he had a lot more punch in his strokes than most players.


In pic: Lee Chong Wei [left] and Lin Dan [right]



Winning attitude:


Lin's contemporaries believed that he had all the ingredients that made him a near-perfect badminton player. But he wasn't the only technically gifted player of his era. Take Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei who had 732 career wins. And I still believe Lee Chong Wei was technically the better player. But when you put on the court. It was Lin Dan who has a better record [28-12]. 


What set Lin apart was his impeccable self-belief. The biggest difference between Lin Dan and others was his ability to play perfect, error-free, attacking Badminton precisely at the crucial moments. 


The thing that puts Lin Dan above Lee Chong Wei are the three big finals - the 2011 WC, the 2012 Olympics and the 2013 WC. All of them played at the peak of their career. In all the three matches Lee won a set and was leading in the decider [he even had two match points in 2011]. So why was it always that one player won each time? It was Lin's mentality that ultimately won him the matches.



Adaptability:


Lin did not start as a punishing rally-winning machine. Initially, he was an out-and-out attacker. He was lightning quick, aggressive and devoted to attack all the time. If you lifted ten shuttles in succession, he would hit with a jump smash on at least nine of them.


Although he was really good at it. There came a time when he was losing quite often to Peter Gade and Taufiq Hidayat. But Lin could never settle being a one-tail pony and hence, reworked on his game. He retained the speed but added a relentless rallying pace to his game. 


What makes him great is that he came with a certain style but later adapted and made his weak point the strongest one. When he lost, he went back and worked. Lin Dan was willing to work on different things and that's what made him special.


Longevity:


For all of Super Dan's achievements, there is a belief that continuing for longer - than he should - have tarnished his legacy. Over the past three seasons, his career win-loss ratio slumped to 47-41 against a career record of 619-92 in 2017. Maybe he thought he could play one more Olympics. 


But despite his diminishing skills, Lin remained capable of showing sparks in his old ability, such as the win at the 2019 Malaysian Open, where he beat 2016 Olympics champion Chen Long in the final. He retained the ability to beat anyone on his day. 


There was a match at the 2018 Hong Kong Open where he was playing [world no 1] Kento Momota. The Air-conditioning unit was right behind one side of the court so it was impossible to control the shuttle from that side of the court. Everything went long. Every player on that side struggled. But when Lin Dan stepped onto that side, he didn't seem to be affected by it. And continued with his age-old strategy of digging deep into the rallies. He was almost otherworldly. 



And the legacy continues...


On the day of Lin Dan's retirement, the most poignant tribute came from Lee Chong Wei. And this tweet just sums it up for the man.


Pic Credit: Lee Chong Wei twitter handle


The end of Lin's glamourous career came just a year after the retirement of his great rival and friend. The duo reigned over Badminton for more than a decade. And Lin Dan's greatness is why Lee Chong Wei will go down in sports (not just badminton) as perhaps the unluckiest legend, in that his career coincided with that of a big-match player like the Chinese. 


In fact, with Lin's retirement, the golden era in Men's Singles in Badminton has arguably come to an end. Often referred to as the four kings along with Chong Wei, Taufiq Hidayat and Peter Gade. Lin is the last of the quartet to retire. 



There can (and should) be a debate on who is the greatest badminton player of all time. Such a debate, in any sport, goes above, and beyond numbers. But for the sheer weight of trophies in his cabinet, it will take another miracle to have a case against Lin Dan as the greatest shuttler to have played the game.


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