QINGDAO, East China, — Gao Ling is one of the most successful women’s doubles specialist in the history of badminton and is noted for her anticipation, consistency, forecourt prowess and sporting smile.
But after winning everything in her 22-year playing career, the always smiling Gao decided to call it quits, even though the ending looked by no means perfect.
Gao, who represents Hubei, paired up with Wei Yili but lost to Beijing Olympic champions Du Jing and Yu Yang from Liaoning 21-18, 21-18 in the women’s doubles quarterfinals at the 11th Chinese National Games on Friday.
"After I retired from the national team, I could not train as systematically as in the national team," said Gao. "But I have given it all in the matches and I’m satisfied with my performance."
Gao, who took up amateur sports school studies in 1987, said she had nothing to regret as "I have won the titles of all major tournaments." Gao has the most world titles, in the world, of 14 to her credit.
Gao became a member of the Hubei provincial team in 1992, was recruited into the national team in 1997 and began to show her talent later on the international stage.
In the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, she won China’s first mixed doubles gold medal with Zhang Jun. She then won women’s and mixed doubles golds in 2001 world championships and was voted the world’s best athlete that year by world badminton governing body.
Other than that, she and Huang Sui won a record six consecutive women’s doubles titles at the All-England Championships, which is dubbed "little world championships", from 2001 to 2006.
However, to Gao’s regret, she has never clinched an Olympic gold medal in women’s doubles. She seized a bronze medal with Qin Yiyuanin 2000, and a silver medal with Huang Sui in 2004.
In 2008, Gao began to pair up with Zheng Bo as Zhang Jun had retired and aimed to win three mixed doubles Olympic golds in a row. But the duo ended in failure, faltering in the first round.
In May in 2009, Gao got married to Wu Sheng, who owns Tony Studio, a styling, fashion publicizing and educational organization.
Gao resumed training after the wedding ceremony. "I played for Hubei this time in the National Games as a reward for their years’ support."
Now the 30-year-old has finished her task and will retire after the National Games.
"I will take a break after the National Games and plan to deliver a baby. Twins are even better," said Gao, still in smile.