It will be a tale of the tape if China’s Li Shifeng shuttles his way to international stardom like his sporting idol.
Chinese badminton fans can thank video re-runs if Li Shifeng successfully follows in the racket strokes of his hero Lin Dan to carry on his country’s remarkable badminton dynasty.
The 18-year-old Li took his latest steps on that journey at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, where he eased to the gold medal in the men’s singles.
Known as ‘Super Dan’, the two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion Lin Dan (CHN) is widely regarded as the greatest badminton player of all time. Inadvertently, he is playing a key role in the emergence of the next generation. “My father showed me videos of Lin Dan every day in my childhood, asking me to imitate his playing style,” Li said. “If there is something I don’t know (on the court), I will go for Lin’s video to find the answer.
“Now I will follow the steps of my idol to fight at the world championships and Olympic Games.”
In the final of the men’s singles, world junior No.6 Li got past his higher-ranked opponent Lakshya Sen of India (3) with surprising ease, although Sen rallied to save four successive match points before his Chinese opponent finally prevailed.
Li celebrated victory by collapsing in joy and ripping off his shirt. “I feel released after the victory as I have been busy preparing for it for more than one year,” Li said after repeating his countryman Shi Yuqi’s gold-medal triumph at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games. “My teammate Shi won gold at Nanjing 2014. I have kept the gold in China this time. But my mission is still not completed as I have an even bigger dream.”
There was to be no Chinese double in the women’s singles though, as Goh Jin Wei hit her target of winning Malaysia’s first-ever official gold medal at the YOG by coming from behind to beat China’s Wang Zhiyi in the women’s final.
“I was so looking forward to winning the first YOG gold for my country,” Goh said. “But after achieving that, I have to (start again from zero). I hope I can perform well at senior level in the future.”
Badminton competition was rounded out by the innovative relay team event. “No one was that sure how it would go until we started playing, but it works really well,” New Zealand player Oscar Guo, from runners-up team Omega, said. “I get to meet new people and get the team spirit which is quite important at the Olympic Games.”
Germany’s Lukas Resch, from bronze medal-winning team Theta, added: “It was really different and also very difficult to play. You are never going to know whether you will win or not until the last moment.“It’s really about having athletes play together. Otherwise we will just fight with each other like enemies. Now we team up, I get to know them.”