With a career spanning over 20 years, Lin Dan was not just one of the best shuttlers of all time but one of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen as well. There is perhaps not a single major trophy missing from Super Dan's cabinet. By the age of 28, the sensational southpaw had managed to achieve the Super Grand Slam of badminton, something which is considered almost unthinkable.
The Olympic gold along with titles at the World Championships, All England Open, Superseries Finals, Thomas Cup, Sudirman Cup, Asian Games, Asian Championships, and World Cup - nothing was out of reach for one of China's greatest. He still remains the only shuttler till date to accomplish this mind-boggling feat.
This year, the 37-year-old legend finally bid adieu to the badminton world after an illustrious career dotted with priceless moments.
As we celebrate his glittering career, here's a lookback at the top 5 titles Lin Dan won:
#1 Beijing Olympics, 2008
Having succumbed in the first round at the 2004 Olympics, there was a lot of pressure on Lin Dan to perform well in 2008. With the mega quadrennial Games being staged in Beijing, all eyes were on the Chinese great to deliver the gold in front of his adoring home fans.
Lin Dan lived up to the expectations in style. He was irrepressible throughout the tournament and did not even lose a game in five matches. If anyone hoped for a fight from the second seed Lee Chong Wei in the final, then they were in for a disappointment. The top seed cruised through the match 21-12, 21-8 to lay his hands on the prized Olympic gold for the first time in his career.
#2 World Championships, 2011
As the second seed, Lin Dan was hardly tested at the 2011 World Championships. He breezed through each of his first four rounds, reaching the semifinals where former World No. 1 Peter Gade waited for him.
The third-seed Dane was not ready to give up without a gritty fight. For the first time in the tournament, Lin Dan lost a game when Peter Gade edged him 24-22 in the opener. That hardly ruffled the Chinese legend.
Lin Dan came storming back to pocket the next two games to secure a 22-24, 21-7, 21-15 victory.
If the semis proved to be a huge hurdle, then the final presented an even stiffer challenge. Top seed Lee Chong Wei hadn't conceded a game throughout the tournament and arrived in the summit clash much fresher than the Chinese.
That was evident when the Malaysian got hold of the first game 22-20. Never one to be swatted aside easily, Lin Dan once again came back to pocket the second game 21-14. The final game proved to be a performance for the ages from both. Lin Dan's staunch self-belief and stunning resilience shone through when he saved multiple match points to take the grueling 20-22, 21-14, 23-21 win.
#3 London Olympics, 2012
A year after their titanic tussle at the 2011 World Championships, Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei were in for another nail-biting clash at the London Olympics gold medal match.
But before that much-awaited face-off between the two best shuttlers in the world, Lin Dan faced some anxious moments in his quarterfinal against Sho Sasaki. The Japanese grabbed the second game to force a decider. But Lin Dan was able to pass the test with flying colors as he completed a 21-12, 16-21, 21-16 win.
The Chinese then easily dispatched Korea's Lee Hyun-il in the last-four to set up the blockbuster final with Lee Chong Wei. Much like their 2011 World Championships match, it was the Malaysian who stamped his authority early in the match, taking the opener 21-15.
In a fantastic turnaround, the Chinese levelled the match by taking the second game 21-10. The decider was absolutely riveting with Lee finding himself two points away from the win at 19-18. Lin Dan dashed his hopes with a remarkable show of grit and determination that saw the southpaw getting the job done at 15-21, 21-10, 21-19.
#4 All England Open, 2016
Lin Dan had never won the prestigious All England Open with a gap of more than three years until his 2016 triumph which came four years since his 2012 glory. The Chinese great was seeded fifth and wasn't exactly among the biggest contenders for the title.
But that tournament was a perfect example of why the adage, "Form is temporary, class is permanent" is popular. Lee wasn't exactly in his best form but he quite obviously never gave up. The grit and fighting spirit were for all to see when he needed three games to see off each of Sho Sasaki, Jan O Jorgensen and Xue Song in the second round, quarterfinals and semifinals respectively.
In the final, he simply stamped his class. Lin Dan did not give the eighth seed Tian Houwei a chance to settle down into the match as he sailed away to a 21-9, 21-10 win for his sixth and final All England Open title.
#5 Malaysia Open, 2019
Even in the twilight of his career, the legendary Lin Dan was still breaking new ground. In 2017, he won the Malaysia Open for the first time. For years, the tournament was under the iron grip of Malaysia's national icon, Lee Chong Wei. That didn't deter the Chinese left-hander who beat Lee 21-19, 21-14.
But Lee was definitely not satisfied with just one win at this tournament. Two years later, he came back to lift the trophy once again, which eventually went on to become the last title he ever won.
It wasn't an easy route though. The 35-year-old Lin Dan wasn't even seeded. Super Dan was stretched to three games in four out of the five matches he played. That could not throw him off the course at all.
In the final, Long absolutely annihilated Dan to take the first game 21-9. That hardly mattered as Dan rebounded for a spectacular 9-21, 21-17, 21-11 victory.Published 22 Nov 2020, 00:31 IST