LONDON • The best of Lin Dan, twice an Olympic men's singles gold medallist and this week seeking a sixth All England Open title at the age of 32, is still to come, according to Peter Gade.
If Danish former All England champion Gade is right, the world's oldest tournament, which starts in Birmingham today, could see one of its greatest legends parading his unique skills in all their unpredictable brilliance again.
Whether such a revival after three lower-key years happens for Lin this week, or when he is chasing a record-breaking third gold at the Olympic Games in Rio in August, is a burning question.
"Lin Dan has had the Olympics in his mind for a long time," said France national coach Gade.
"He will come alive in a different way for the Olympics, I think.
"But whether he will open up now and we see his best this week, we don't know."
Lin captured only two front-line titles last year, and has won just eight since his last All England triumph four years ago.
Lee Chong Wei, Lin's closest rival for much of the past eight years, may also be ready to challenge for what would be his fourth All England title. The light-footed Malaysian made a sensational comeback from suspension and injury last year despite his 33 years, extending an unbeaten streak to 21 matches while climbing from 182 to world No. 2.
This included a victory over Lin in the China Open semi-finals in November, his first since January 2012 over the Olympic champion.
"I'm really surprised with my progress," the Malaysian admitted. "I have come a long way. It hasn't been easy to get back to where I am.
"If you had asked me nine months ago if I ever dreamt of being world No. 1 again, I would probably have told you that it's not possible. Now I dare to dream again, and I'll try to regain the No. 1 spot, hopefully before the Olympics."
The present incumbent, Chen Long, has however been dominant since winning the first of his two world titles in Copenhagen in mid-2014, gradually gaining confidence in his ability to succeed Lin as China's pre-eminent player.
Chen has so far held the top ranking for 16 successive months and will start as top seed in his bid to win his third All England title.
The women's singles favourite is Spain's Carolina Marin, the 22-year-old two-time world champion who is the top seed.
Last year's runner-up, Saina Nehwal of India, is seeded second with two former All England champions from China, Li Xuerui and Wang Yihan, third and fourth respectively.