Badminton: Lin Dan silences doubters with 6th All England trophy

China’s Lin Dan poses with the All England trophy after beating Tian Houwei 21-9, 21-10 in the singles final.
China’s Lin Dan poses with the All England trophy after beating Tian Houwei 21-9, 21-10 in the singles final. PHOTO: REUTERS

Chinese claims his 6th All England title at age 32, proving that he is not yet past his prime

LONDON • Lin Dan, already regarded by many as the greatest badminton player of all time, made another entry into the record books with an overwhelming performance to win his sixth All England Open title yesterday.

His 21-9, 21-10 victory over compatriot Tian Houwei was a thrilling rebuttal to critics who reckoned that, now aged 32 and with a mere handful of titles in the past three years, the Chinese legend is really only a past master.

Instead, Lin suggested a record third Olympic men's singles gold could well be possible in Rio de Janeiro in five months' time.

"I wanted to show everyone that at 33, I will still be able to do it," he said.

It was four years since he last won the All England, but his total of men's singles titles at the tournament now has only been surpassed by Rudy Hartono, the great Indonesian, who won eight. That though was more than 40 years ago and in the pre-professional era.

Mischievously skilful, tenaciously contentious and consistently fluent, Lin ensured the outcome was never in doubt yesterday.

Within moments, he was 7-1 up and was playing with an intensity of focus greater than anything he previously showed last week.

Tian tried to hustle him a little and got back to 7-11 but it was almost impossible to escape the web created by the patient accuracy of Lin's clears, lifts and net shots.

Lin also made very few mistakes despite often playing to tight margins, before picking his moments superbly to make a quick change of direction or a sudden attacking thrust.

Tian, 24, made his last serious push at 4-13 in the second game, increasing the pace slightly and taking a few more risks in trying to force attacks through.

He reduced the deficit to 10-15, but these were the last points he was able to win.

A rare but fantastic piece of retrieving by Lin was followed by a dramatic kill and a piece of theatrics as he turned to the crowd and threw his arms wide open.

He may have enjoyed that moment as much as anything since triumphing at the London Olympics 31/2 years ago.

"When I came back (after two long periods away from the game), I tried to prove to the world that I am still the best," Lin said. "I'm pleased with the fitness that I have."

Notably though he did not have to play his long-time rival Lee Chong Wei, the former world No. 1 from Malaysia, or Chen Long, the top-seeded world No. 1.

It was suggested that he and Chen might have been trying to avoid each other. "I don't think that's right because what has happened is normal," Lin answered.

"Last year, we were always in the same half and we did play against each other - and we do respect each other."

Despite all the speculation in recent years about retirement, it is now highly likely that Lin will go to another Olympics. But will he ever be seen at another All England?

"I don't know," he shrugged.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2016, with the headline 'Lin silences doubters'. Print Edition | Subscribe