Li to step down as China head coach

BEIJING • Li Yongbo, who led the Chinese shuttlers to 18 gold medals at six Olympic Games, will step down as head coach of the national team, media reports said yesterday.

Fans have been calling for Li's retirement in recent years and the discontent grew after China's subpar performance at the 2016 Rio Games, where they won only two of five gold medals, the lowest haul since 2000.

"After serving so many years in the post, I feel tired... and I've realised it is time to step back and give the younger generation the opportunity to use their new thinking to lead the team," Tengxun Sport quoted Li, who is overseeing a 17-strong China contingent at the Singapore Open, as saying.

The 54-year-old will be reassigned along with some other coaching staff to an advisory panel with the Chinese Olympic Committee, the report said.

The changes are expected to take place before next month's Sudirman Cup in Australia.

During his 24-year tenure as head coach, Li saw China secure its position as the sport's most successful country. His crowning achievement came at the 2012 London Olympics, where China swept all five golds.

China's badminton head coach Li Yongbo led his country to 10 Surdiman Cup, including the last in 2015 (left). He also delivered 18 Olympic golds, nine Uber Cup and five Thomas Cup tiles during his 24-year tenure.
China's badminton head coach Li Yongbo led his country to 10 Surdiman Cup, including the last in 2015 (above). He also delivered 18 Olympic golds, nine Uber Cup and five Thomas Cup tiles during his 24-year tenure. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

He has also delivered 10 Sudirman Cup titles, nine Uber Cup titles and five Thomas Cup titles.

But "Li's progressive winner-take-all mindset and outspoken personality have seen him in hot water constantly throughout his career", said China Daily.

Chinese shuttlers have seen a fallow period, with former champions including Lin Dan, and Fu Haifeng, both 33, set to retire.

Last month, the team suffered their worst tournament in two decades at the All-England Open in Birmingham. China captured only one title, the mixed doubles, through Lu Kai and Juang Yaqiong, which equalled the lowest total in two decades.

The Chinese men have also failed to lift the last two Thomas Cups while the last women's singles world champion from China is Wang Yihan in 2011.

On social media, where most welcomed the news of Li's retirement, many also paid tribute to his illustrious career.

"People may focus on the negative news...but the country's brilliant success in the sport could not have happened without this great coach," one fan wrote.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2017, with the headline 'Li to step down as China head coach'. Print Edition | Subscribe