The Unpredictable and Fascinating Development of Badminton Men’s Singles in the Post Lin Dan-Lee Chong Wei Era
The Lin Dan-Lee Chong Wei rivalry is comparable to the Federer-Nadal rivalry of badminton. Whenever the two badminton greats clash on court, they always present to fans badminton at the highest quality. Lin Dan’s demolishing of the Malaysian in Beijing Olympics, the epic finale of London Olympics, and Lee Chong Wei’s breakthrough victory in the semi-final of Rio Olympics, are testaments to their dominance and prominence in world badminton. However, a new era has emerged after the Rio Olympics, wherein promising young players have superseded Lee and Lin as the leading figures in men’s singles. Five players that have stood out during this transitioning period from Rio to Tokyo Olympics are Srikanth Kidambi, Viktor Axelsen, Shi Yuqi, Kento Momota, and Anthony Ginting. Before commenting on their performances over the past two years and prospects of winning the gold medal in Tokyo, one has to start with Chen Long – the man who was dubbed by many as the heir to Lin Dan.
Chen Long (China, 29 years of age)
Chen Long rose to prominence in 2010 after winning the China Open title. Since then, he has won two World Championship titles, a bronze medal in Rio Olympics, and seventeen Superseries titles. His biggest achievement, of course, was triumphing in the Rio Olympics. When he brushed past Lee Chong Wei in straight games in Rio, many thought that the victory marked the beginning of Chen Long’s era.
However, Chen has been a massive shadow of himself since the Olympics. Not only has he merely won one tournament title in two years, but he also lost the status as China’s no.1 to his younger teammate Shi Yuqi. Chen Long’s downfall is baffling, given that he has not won every major title like Lin Dan. His trophy collection still misses the Thomas Cup, Sudirman Cup and Asian Games gold medal.
While China regain the Thomas Cup in May, Chen Long nearly cost his country the trophy when he lost the first match of the tie against Kento Momota.
He also failed to help his country retain the Sudirman Cup last year, albeit winning his match in the final. As for the Asian Games, he helped his country clinching the gold medal in team’s event, but he was defeated by Anthony Ginting in the quarter-final.
Chen Long was well-known for utilizing his fine physique to produce powerful smashes and cover every side of the court. However, with his declining physical conditions, Chen is no longer a formidable champion. It remains questionable if he could challenge for Tokyo Olympics, help his county regain the Sudirman Cup, and win the elusive Asian Games individual gold medal, in order to make him a true great like Lin Dan.