The end of Lee–Lin era, the rivalry that transformed the badminton world

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The end of Lee Chong Wei (L) - Lin Dan rivalry era. (photo: AFP)
The end of Lee Chong Wei (L) - Lin Dan rivalry era. (photo: AFP)

Kuala Lumpur: The storied rivalry between Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei and China’s Lin Dan was arguably the most legendary in badminton history. Lee and Lin dominated professional badminton, winning countless titles during almost two decades that was known as the “Lee-Lin rivalry” era of badminton.

The two big badminton stars with two contrasting personalities were able to pump up drama and draw viewers’ attentions to the sport of badminton worldwide. Modern-day badminton would not be what it is without these two superstars.

Both have won a staggering total of 135 (Lee with 69, Lin with 66) international men’s singles titles combined. Lin Dan, 35, won Olympic gold medals (Beijing 2008, London 2012), while Lee, 36, finished runner-up three times (Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016).

Meanwhile, Lin held a 27-11 career head-to-head record over Lee, with their last battle was at the 2018 All England quarter-final, where Lin defeated Lee 21-16, 21-17.

Despite being fierce rivals on badminton court, Lee and Lin are good friends off the court. In fact, Lin has expressed his concerns over Lee’s health more than one time in the public since Lee was diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer last year, and wanted his long-time nemesis to focus on recovering.

When Lee had announced his retirement from competitive badminton on Thursday, it officially marked the end of the Lee-Lin era.

After Lee’s announcement, Lin Dan posted a message on his Chinese social media page saying “I’ll be playing alone, there is no one to accompany me anymore.”

Lee also replied to Lin’s message by saying “I hope that you can realize your dream of making your fifth Olympics.”

Message exchange between Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan after Lee's retirement announcement. (photo: Weibo)
Message exchange between Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan after Lee’s retirement announcement. (photo: Weibo)

Since only a maximum two singles players can represent China at 2020 Tokyo Games, the current World No. 16 Lin must surpass one of his teammates, world number two Shi Yuqi or world number five Chen Long in order to make the Tokyo Olympics.

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