Badminton: Is 'burden of fame' becoming too much for Lin Dan?

Badminton: Is 'burden of fame' becoming too much for Lin Dan?
PHOTO: AFP

Hong Kong - Chinese badminton legend Lin Dan has dominated badminton for over a decade but after another early exit in Hong Kong, the five-time world champion hinted that the "burden of fame" may be becoming too much.

Nicknamed "Super Dan" in 2004 by now-retired Danish star Peter Gade, the Chinese shuttler remains the only singles player to have scooped all nine major titles and has two Olympic golds to his name.

Lin is firmly established as one of the true greats of the sport, but he has had a choppy year taking just one Super Series title, in Japan in September.

Now the 32-year-old veteran will face questions about his Olympic title defence in Rio de Janeiro next year as a host of challengers line up to take him down.

Lin exited the Hong Kong Open in the second round on Thursday at the hands of little-known hometown player Angus Ng - the third time in as many months that he has fallen in the first two rounds of a big tournament.

The former long-time world number one, who is now ranked third, also made unexpectedly heavy work of his first round match in Hong Kong against Ihsan Maulana Mustofa of Indonesia, taking over an hour to dismiss the qualifier 21-17, 15-21, 21-14.

After that match, Lin, who is the centre of attention wherever he plays, hinted he was feeling the pressure of continuously performing at the top of the game.

"The younger players don't have any burden of fame. They can just play more free," he said.

Lin took five months off until May last year - his second long absence from the circuit since winning Olympic gold in 2012.

But he dismissed retirement rumours as he returned to action, saying he is aiming for next year's Olympics where he will attempt to top the podium for the third consecutive time.

Lin's waning star would be good news for arch-rival Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, the former world number one who has never taken the world title or an Olympic gold - losing to Lin in the last two Olympic finals.

Lee has made a strong return to the badminton circuit after an eight-month doping this year, winning back-to-back titles in China and France as he hits form nine months out from Rio.

Lin's compatriot and current world number one Chen Long will also be eyeing his first Olympic title as badminton begins its build-up to Brazil.

"There is a battle between me and Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. We always do our best," Chen said in Hong Kong this week.

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