Lin Dan’s unfinished business
Lin Dan didn’t retire after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics when most observers thought he would.
The world’s greatest badminton player could have finished years ago without regrets.
By the end of 2011, Lin owned every major title except for the European Championship, and only because he’s Chinese. The following year he repeated as Olympic champion in London, released his autobiography “To the End of the World,” and was still looking ahead.
The man dubbed “Super Dan” for more than a decade is wealthy (the second-highest earning athlete in China in 2015 according to Forbes) and famous (his wax figure is in Madame Tussauds). So what keeps him playing? “I still have the passion,” he says.
Which is why Lin Dan is in Birmingham to defend the All England Open title from today, even though he’s won badminton’s
I still have the passion. LIN DAN
oldest championship six times already. His history of glorious comebacks means nobody is willing to rule him out of ultimately matching the great Rudy Hartono’s eight titles in the 1960s-70s. But if Lin Dan wins again this week, it will be despite the most turbulent time in his career.
After the Olympics, Lin Dan returned home as his wife Xie Xingfang, a former two-time world champion, was expecting their first child. The boy, Xiao Yu, was born on Nov 5.
The joy imploded less than two weeks later, when a celebrity gossip finder released on Chinese social media site Weibo photos and gifs of Lin Dan hugging a woman in a hotel room. She wasn’t his wife. More scandalous was the timing. The photos were taken in October, when Xingfang was pregnant.
The hashtag LinDancheating has 2.9 billion hits so far.
Within hours, Lin Dan apologised on social media, saying “I won’t make any excuses for myself, but my actions have hurt my family.”
That has drawn more than 619,000 likes. But most of the 928,000 user comments have been along the lines of this post: “After a lifetime of winning, a crushing defeat. Was it really worth it?”
The next day, Xingfang posted on her Weibo account a photo presumably of her’s and Lin Dan’s hands holding a baby’s hand, and suggesting she forgave him. “We, as a family will go through this together,” Xingfang wrote.
The episode was a huge hit to Lin Dan’s reputation, but his rapid apology appears to have appeased his main sponsors. Also, time and good results tend to soften controversy, and Lin Dan returned to action less than three weeks later in the Chinese Super League, with success.
He won all eight of his matches, including against the other three Chinese ranked in the world top 10: Olympic champion Chen Long, Tian Houwei, and Shi Yuqi. Lin Dan was met not with jeers but resounding cheers during the league.