Lin Dan thrills Rio crowd in badminton test event
Lin Dan gave an enthralled crowd exactly what they came for at the Rio stage of the BWF Grand Prix – and helped China complete a memorable clean sweep in the badminton test event.
The five-time World champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist defeated Pablo Abian (ESP) in the men’s singles final on November 29, with compatriot Shen Yaying winning the women’s competition. There were also titles for the men’s doubles pair of Huang Kaixiang and Zheng Siwei, and the women’s partnership of Jia Yifan and Chen Qingchen – while Zheng and Chen paired up to take the mixed doubles crown.
“The competition [for places on the Olympic team] in China is ferocious,” said Lin, who has slipped to fourth in the world rankings during an inconsistent year and is currently second on his country’s leaderboard, after his victory.
Lin's determination to win a hat-trick of titles in Rio showed from the start, when he beat local player Igor Ibrahim 21-12, 21-5 in the first round. “It was a dream come true” said an unfazed Ibrahim, who was happy to be on the same stage as badminton's biggest star. “I’m pleased because I managed to play my game without getting nervous and even managed to score a few points.”
Lin subsequently overcame Matej Hlinican (SVK) and two Czech opponents, Milan Ludik and Petr Koukal, en route to the semi-finals. He was given his toughest test yet in the last four by Zhu Siyuan (CHN) but emerged in three sets to qualify for the final, in which he beat Abian 21-13, 21-17.
Shen met little resistance on her way to the women’s final but had to fight out an epic encounter with Li Yun (CHN) to win the title. She won 20-22, 21-17 and 24-22 in a match that lasted one hour, 21 minutes – 45 minutes more than her next-longest match in the competition.
The full house of Chinese victories was completed by the doubles finals, in which the three teams only dropped one set in total. But the event’s biggest buzz had been around Lin, who is known as ‘Super Dan’ and ‘The David Beckham of badminton’. If last week’s form is anything to go by, he will be giving a capacity crowd of 5,800 at Riocentro Pavilion 4 plenty more to cheer about when the Games arrive next year.