Is ‘bur­den of fame’ be­com­ing too much for Lin Dan?

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

HONG KONG: Chi­nese bad­minton leg­end Lin Dan has dom­i­nated bad­minton for over a decade but af­ter an­other early exit in Hong Kong, the five-time world cham­pion hinted that the “bur­den of fame” may be be­com­ing too much. Nick­named “Su­per Dan” in 2004 by now-re­tired Dan­ish star Peter Gade, the Chi­nese shut­tler re­mains the only sin­gles player to have scooped all nine ma­jor ti­tles and has two Olympic golds to his name. Lin is firmly es­tab­lished as one of the true greats of the sport, but he has had a choppy year tak­ing just one Su­per Se­ries ti­tle, in Ja­pan in Septem­ber.

Now the 32-year-old vet­eran will face ques­tions about his Olympic ti­tle de­fense in Rio de Janeiro next year as a host of chal­lengers line up to take him down. Lin ex­ited the Hong Kong Open in the sec­ond round on Thurs­day at the hands of lit­tle-known home­town player An­gus Ng-the third time in as many months that he has fallen in the first two rounds of a big tour­na­ment. The for­mer long-time world num­ber one, who is now ranked third, also made un­ex­pect­edly heavy work of his first round match in Hong Kong against Ih­san Maulana Mustofa of In­done­sia, tak­ing over an hour to dis­miss the qual­i­fier 21-17, 15-21, 21-14.

Af­ter that match, Lin, who is the cen­tre of at­ten­tion wher­ever he plays, hinted he was feel­ing the pres­sure of con­tin­u­ously per­form­ing at the top of the game. “The younger play­ers don’t have any bur­den of fame. They can just play more free,” he said. Lin took five months off un­til May last year-his sec­ond long ab­sence from the cir­cuit since win­ning Olympic gold in 2012. But he dis­missed re­tire­ment ru­mors as he re­turned to ac­tion, say­ing he is aim­ing for next year’s Olympics where he will at­tempt to top the podium for the third con­sec­u­tive time.

Lin’s wan­ing star would be good news for arch-ri­val Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, the for­mer world num­ber one who has never taken the world ti­tle or an Olympic gold-los­ing to Lin in the last two Olympic fi­nals. Lee has made a strong re­turn to the bad­minton cir­cuit af­ter an eight-month dop­ing this year, win­ning back-to­back ti­tles in China and France as he hits form nine months out from Rio. Lin’s com­pa­triot and cur­rent world num­ber one Chen Long will also be eye­ing his first Olympic ti­tle as bad­minton be­gins its build-up to Brazil. “There is a bat­tle be­tween me and Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. We al­ways do our best,” Chen said in Hong Kong this week. — AFP

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