Beijing: After the reigning Olympic women’s singles champion, Carolina Marin torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and both meniscus on her left knee during training two weeks ago, she was forced to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics.
Marin’s withdrawal also made Chen Long of China, the only defending champion competing in the Tokyo Olympics badminton event. Other defending champions were either retired or not able to earn enough qualification points to make the Tokyo Games.
Chen Long was ranked sixth in the world and was also ranked fifth in the Race to Tokyo rankings. He became the highest-ranked Chinese player in the men’s singles category while another men’s singles shuttler from China – Shi Yuqi was ranked No. 9 in the Race to Tokyo rankings.
The 32-year-old has an illustrious badminton career, winning one Olympic gold medal (2016), two world championships (2014, 2015), five Sudirmanc Cup (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2019), three Thomas Cup (2010, 2012, 2018), two Asian Games men’s team gold (2010, 2018), and one Asian Championships men’s singles gold (2017).
However, after winning the Rio Olympics, his performance started to become shaky and inconsistent. In 2019, even though he successfully defended the French Open title, he suffered three first-round exits – at the Thailand Open, Korea Open, and the All England. He has not competed in any tournaments since the 2020 All England. Therefore, it’s difficult for him and his opponent to evaluate where his current competitive level is.
Chen and his wife – former women’s singles world No. 1, Wang Shixian, welcomed their first child in May of 2019. The birth of his first child gave Chen Long a big motivation to perform well as he was hoping to provide positive energy to his baby.
Chen Long will face a greater challenge in the Tokyo Olympics than the previous two editions. Not only that he has aged, but other players such as Kento Momota, Lee Zii Jia, Viktor Axelsen, Chou Tien Chen, and Anthony Sinisuka Ginting all posed a huge threat to the reigning Olympic champion.
“My goal in the Olympics is very simple, I hope I can stand on the highest podium in Tokyo Olympics,” said Chen.
Even though his overall record before the Tokyo Olympics was not outstanding, but he maintained great career head-to-head records against the world’s top 10 players. He has a 5-5 career meeting record against World No. 1 Kento Momota, 2-2 against Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia, 14-5 against Viktor Axelsen, and 9-0 against Chou Tien Chen. However, Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia was his toughest opponent as he was trailing 4-8 against the Indonesian.
In addition to solid records against the world’s top players, his technique and playing style has changed after being trained under Li Mao since 2019. The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics also gave him more time to get used to the new changes.
“There may be many challenges, but that’s the exciting part of badminton. I will give my best trying to stand on top of the podium,” said Chen Long firmly.