Badminton: Lin Dan's route to Rio goes via Singapore

Five-time world champion Lin Dan has participated in the Singapore Open six times, but has never won it.
Five-time world champion Lin Dan has participated in the Singapore Open six times, but has never won it.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Olympic qualifying points key as star returns to S'pore Open fray

He was booed off the Singapore Indoor Stadium court the last time he played here.

But badminton superstar Lin Dan will be hoping to make a better impression when the US$350,000 (S$500,000) OUE Singapore Open returns in two months' time.

In 2011, the Chinese, then ranked world No. 1, reached the final. But, citing a bout of gastric flu, he conceded a walkover to team-mate Chen Jin, angering the crowd of about 7,400, who jeered him.

Ironically, while Lin is twice an Olympic gold medallist and a five-time world champion, he has never captured the Singapore Open. Not once in six attempts.

But this year he has extra incentive to do so. In a statement, the world No. 5 said: "It's been a while since I last came to Singapore and I am looking forward to returning to earn as much qualifying points as I can before the Olympic qualifying period closes."

The April 12-17 Singapore Open is part of the Superseries, the second-highest tier of competitions on the Badminton World Federation's (BWF) calendar, just behind the Olympics and the World Championships.

The Singapore stop is the last Superseries tournament for shuttlers to earn precious points and move up the BWF world rankings before the qualifying window for the Aug 5-21 Rio Olympics closes on May 5.

Only the top 34 singles players in the world will qualify for the quadrennial event.

Yesterday's announcement has already whetted some fans' appetite.

Natalie Low, 20, said: "I am very excited to learn that Lin Dan is coming again for the Singapore Open. I first got to know about him when he came in 2011 but did not manage to see him play then.

"I have been following him since and I am glad to now have the opportunity to see him live. I'm really hoping he is as good as seen on TV."

Lin leads a glittering cast from China. The 31-strong contingent includes men's world No. 1 Chen Long, Olympic mixed doubles champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei, Olympic women's singles silver medallist Wang Yihan and defending women's singles champion Sun Yu.

With registration closing only on March 1, and with the world's top shuttlers keen to secure Olympic qualification, Ng Yoke Weng, the tournament's organising chairman, said he and his team "are confident that more big-name entries will start to fly in".

Singapore's Liang Xiaoyu, who is ranked 42nd and also trying to make it to the Rio Games, said: "I am very excited that all these top-notch players are coming to compete in the Singapore Open. I have only played against one world-class player and that was Ratchanok Intanon in the Thailand Open last October.

"The opportunity to play against such world-class players will help me because it will enable me to know where I stand amongst them and help me understand my weaknesses better.

"From there, I can make the necessary adjustments to my training programme.

"It is always good practice to play against such high-calibre opponents as the Olympics will feature nothing but the best."

  • Tickets (from $5 to $180, excluding booking fees) for the OUE Singapore Open are on sale at SportsHubTix.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2016, with the headline 'Lin's route to Rio goes via S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe