Badminton: China's top shuttlers wary of Olympic rivals

Meeting the media ahead of the OUE Singapore Open, world No. 1 Chen Long (far left) says he finds the draught at the Indoor Stadium a hindrance, while double Olympic champion Lin Dan is not taking anything for granted for London 2012.
Meeting the media ahead of the OUE Singapore Open, world No. 1 Chen Long (far left) says he finds the draught at the Indoor Stadium a hindrance, while double Olympic champion Lin Dan is not taking anything for granted for London 2012.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Still, Lin feels the way Japan authorities dealt with players' gaming breach deserves respect

Japan's axing of Kento Momota from the national badminton team may seem extreme - even "scary" to Chinese great Lin Dan - but it shows that no one, not even a potential Olympic medallist, is untouchable.

While Lin steered clear from commenting on the severity of the punishment meted out to world No. 2 Momota, the two-time Olympic champion felt that the manner in which the Japanese authorities are treating the issue deserves respect.

"It's up to the Nippon Badminton Association to choose how to handle the issue," the 32-year-old, who is in Singapore for the first time since 2011 to compete in the OUE Singapore Open, said yesterday.

"It's not for me or anyone else on the outside to comment."

Now ranked world No. 3, the five-time world champion added: "One has to admire how their authorities are treating the matter - that no matter who you are, if you've committed an offence, you would be treated as anyone else would and expected to take responsibility for your mistake.

HARSH BUT EQUAL TREATMENT

...if you've committed an offence, you would be treated as anyone else would and expected to take responsibility for your mistake.

LIN DAN, on the dropping of Kento Momota from the Japanese Olympic team for illegal gambling.

NO SHORTAGE OF CHALLENGERS

You can't say China has the upper hand just because one or two players from other teams will be absent.

CHEN LONG, a London 2012 bronze medallist, who is also wary of the threat from Denmark, Indonesia and South Korea.

"Perhaps that's the Japanese spirit and that's what's scarier."

Momota was given the chop last week after admitting to gambling at an illegal casino in Japan. One of the brightest badminton talents to emerge from Japan in years, the 21-year-old was the star of their 2014 Thomas Cup-winning squad and was heavily tipped to make history at the Olympic Games in August.

He was subsequently expelled from the Japanese Olympic team and given an indefinite ban. Team-mate and world No. 63 Kenichi Tago, who also admitted to visiting the illegal casino, was taken off the association's official player list for an indefinite period.

But even in the absence of Momota, the Chinese team's top two men's shuttlers feel there is no shortage of challengers gunning to wrest the Olympic gold from their hands.

Said world No. 1 Chen Long, a bronze medallist at the 2012 London Games: "There are still countries like Denmark, Indonesia and South Korea, all of which have very strong players. You can't say China has the upper hand just because one or two players from other teams will be absent.

"We believe that as long as we put in the effort and prepare well, there will be good results for us at the Olympics."

Even for someone who has seen and won it all, and widely regarded as the greatest shuttlers of all time, the Olympic podium is not assured for Lin.

He said: "It's true that China has been most successful in men's singles at the Olympics, and that is something that anyone who trains for and represents China is proud of.

"But the level of competition is very high, and everyone wants to win Olympic gold in an event that is the most followed in badminton.

"Only when you give your all into a competition will you get good results."

Both players begin their campaign this morning hoping the Singapore Indoor Stadium will this year be a happier hunting ground.

Chen has not made it past the second round in two previous outings at the event, while Lin conceded a walkover in the 2011 final owing to stomach flu.

Said Lin: "This is not an easy venue to play at because the draught is quite strong and it can affect a lot of players' performances.

"It's been a few years since I've been here... I hope that many fans will show up to root for the Chinese team and for me."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2016, with the headline 'STIFF PENALTY SEEMS 'SCARY''. Print Edition | Subscribe