Tokyo Olympics 2021: Examining the medal favorites from China  

Chen Long
Chen Long
Sohinee Basu

For the longest time, China has produced world-class shuttlers who have dominated the badminton circuit and established a neat Chinese empire. With legends like Lin Dan, Yang Yang, Zhao Jianhua and Han Jian, among others, China has had a long list of shuttlers beelining for success and cementing the nation as one of the most successful in badminton history.

There were several question marks as to who would be the rightful successor and keeper of this tradition of dominance when 5-time World Champion and 2-time Olympic gold medalist, Lin Dan hung up his racquet in 2020. Despite Super Dan not being around, China already has a trio of extremely talented shuttlers to its credit, ensuring their run at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics 2021 is medal-worthy.

Being the nation with the highest number of Olympic medals in badminton, China has a reputation for safe keeping and with Lin Dan absent from the picture, the onus has shifted to the women's World No. 2 Chen Yufei. In the men's half at Tokyo, reigning Olympic Champion Chen Long and World No. 11, Shi Yuqi, are to take the responsibility.

The reason behind China's dominance in badminton

Lin Dan
Lin Dan

Racquet sports are dominated mostly by Asian countries. Yet China continues to exercise its stronghold over badminton, having produced several formidable as well as memorable players over the decades.

There are several reasons behind China's incredible grip over the badminton circuit and most starkly points to the model followed by the nation to train its players. In China, badminton is one of the most popular sports, played almost year-round and this in turn, leads to the availability of a large talent pool and the Chinese government has designed a tried and trusted model to ensure the correct filtering of talent takes place.

With ample support from the State, China's boom in badminton hardly comes as a surprise and legends like Lin Dan, Yang Yang, Zhao Jianhua, Xia Xuanze and Han Jian are fashioned out of the same framework.

Here's taking a look at the current Chinese players ready to dominate at the Tokyo Olympics:

# Chen Yufei

Chen Yufei, Image Credit: BWF website
Chen Yufei, Image Credit: BWF website

All of 23, China's Chen Yufei is touted as a huge force to be reckoned with on the BWF circuit. The reigning World No. 2 player has been lapping up one title after the other, making her one of China's most consistent title-winners. In 2019, Yufei went on to bag 7 titles and produced her best season on tour which automatically ascended her to the Numero Uno spot on the BWF rankings.

A 2-time World Championships bronze medalist, Yufei enjoys an extremely healthy rivalry with some of the big names in the fray - Tai Tzu-ying, Akane Yamaguchi, Nozomi Okuhara and PV Sindhu. Although Yufei has been missing in action for the past year and is yet to start her 2021 season, she is undoubtedly one of the strongest medal contenders, heading to Tokyo.

# Chen Long

Chen Long, Image Credit: BWF website
Chen Long, Image Credit: BWF website

The 2016 Rio Olympics champion, Chen Long will be entering the Tokyo Olympics as the defending champion and an obvious medal-favourite. Possiby playing his last Olympics, the 32-year-old Long will be on the quest for a second gold medal and a third Olympic medal at Tokyo. In 2016, Long defeated Malaysian legend Lee Chong Wei to bag the gold while at the 2012 London Olympics, Long picked up the bronze on his debut Olympic outing. The Tokyo Olympics will be the Chinese badminton star's third consecutive Olympic Games.

Long has had an extensive and successful career so far and together with Dan, they were China's golden boys - consistently bringing in laurels from all over. Given the task of manning the reins now, the 2-time All England Open champion is eager to carry forward the tradition. Yet to begin his 2021 season as well, the 2-time World Champion will be having a lot of hope pinned to his shoulders as he heads to Tokyo.

# Shi Yuqi

Shi Yuqi
Shi Yuqi

Aside from Chen Long, the other man from China to watch out for will be the 25-year-old Shi Yuqi. The 2018 World Championships silver medalist Yuqi is well-known for his lithe and aggressive play and is quite the formidable opponent on court. Famously, Yuqi took out fellow countryman Lin Dan in the finals of the 2018 All England Open and went on to claim the title of the oldest badminton championship.

Yet to begin his 2021 season as well, the current World No. 11 player will undoubtedly be looking forward to packing in a lot of punches at the upcoming quadrennial multi-sporting extravaganza. All in all, China's future in badminton is still very much safe. With players like Yuqi, Long and Yufei still in the running, China will assuredly continue to remain as a powerhouse in this sport.

Edited by Prem Deshpande
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