NANJING (China) • Chinese badminton legend Lin Dan insisted he is not quitting after his bid for a sixth World Championship title ended with a defeat by compatriot Shi Yuqi in the last 16 yesterday.
The 34-year-old "Super Dan" was the most high-profile casualty on a day when men's world No. 1 and reigning champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark and women's No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei both progressed in Nanjing.
Lin, also a two-time Olympic champion, may be reaching the end of his career but he remains the biggest draw. The crowd willed him on against the younger Shi, 22, but Lin bowed out with a whimper, 21-15, 21-9.
"Objectively speaking, my performance today was not the best," Lin told reporters, according to Sohu.com.
"For instance, when the scores were level or when I was trailing by just a little, I should have been calmer, but I wasn't.
"On the whole, I will reflect on my performance - what I had done wrong or right. But one thing I'm sure is that, as long as I have the capacity and the time to fight, I will carry on for as long as I can."
Avid Chinese fans paid tribute to Lin on social media despite his loss.
"It is an amazing feat to be so competitive on court at the age of nearly 35. Regardless of whether he wins or loses, Lin Dan will always be our role model," said one user.
Shi, the third seed, joins Axelsen in the quarter-finals.
The 24-year-old Dane beat 10th seed Angus Ng Ka Long of Hong Kong 21-19, 21-18 and will play China's Olympic champion Chen Long in a highly anticipated showdown today.
Axelsen also admitted to not being at his best - so it helped that he was able to draw on the crowd, who have taken to the Dane partly because of his efforts to learn Mandarin. Having a good grasp of the language helps in a sport in which many players are Chinese or of Chinese descent.
Axelsen has been learning for about four years and is capable of giving interviews in Mandarin.
"It really helps me communicate with my Chinese fans and I really appreciate all the support out here," he said.
"Having the Chinese fans yelling your name, I really appreciate that.
"It is also really convenient to be able to speak a bit, not only with the other players, but at restaurants and out there in the real world, so to speak."
On court, the Dane did not need an interpreter to translate his emotions as he celebrated his victory with a swing of his fist.
"It meant a lot. Sometimes when you feel like you are not at your highest level, you also have to be able to win," he said.
"I struggled a little bit to win it and that's why I showed some emotions out there today," he added, before passing a couple of Chinese players and exchanging pleasantries with them - in Mandarin.
In the women's draw, hot favourite Tai booked her place in the last eight after defeating Chinese-born American Zhang Beiwen 21-19, 21-14. It was the end of the road for Thai 2013 champion Ratchanok Intanon, who crashed out 21-16, 21-19 to India's Saina Nehwal.
Q-finals: StarHub Ch201, 11am & 6pm