Lin eyes gold in Rio after All-England badminton title

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Birmingham (England)—Lin Dan regarded by many as the greatest badminton player of all time — made another entry into the record books with a dominant performance to capture his sixth All-England Open title on Sunday.
Lin’s 21-9, 21-10 victory over his compatriot Tian Houwei was a thrilling rebuttal to critics who reckoned that, now aged 32 and with a mere handful of titles in the past three years, the Chinese legend is past his best. Instead Lin suggested a record third Olympic men’s singles gold medal could well be possible in Rio de Janeiro in five months’ time.
“I wanted to show everyone that at 33 I will still be able to do it,” he said.
It was four years since Lin last won the All-England, but his haul of titles at the event has only been surpassed by Rudy Hartono, the great Indonesian, who won eight. That though was more than 40 years ago and in the pre-professional era.
Mischievously skilful and consistently fluent, Lin ensured the outcome was never in doubt.
Within moments he was 7-1 up and was playing with an intensity of focus greater than anything previously this week.
Tian tried to hustle him a little and got back to 7-11 but it was almost impossible to escape the web created by the patient accuracy of Lin’s clears, lifts and net shots. Lin also made very few mistakes despite often playing to tight margins, before picking his moments superbly to make a quick change of direction or a sudden attacking thrust.
He used the smash or the fast drop only rarely, but it was often enough to make a constant attacking threat and infrequent enough to remain a surprise.
By the second game his confidence in ultimate victory was evident, and twice he produced moments of arrogant magic in which he managed to make Tian turn and run. The younger man made his last serious push at 4-13 in the second game, increasing the pace slightly and taking a few more risks in trying to force attacks through.
He reduced the deficit to 10-15, but these were the last points he was able to win. A rare but fantastic piece of retrieving by Lin was followed by a dramatic transforming kill and a piece of theatrics as he turned to the crowd and threw his arms wide open. “When I came back (after two long periods away from the game) I tried to prove to the world that I am still the best,” Lin said, appearing to imply that he now thought he was. “I am pleased with the fitness that I have.”
Notably though he did not this week have to play his long-time rival Lee Chong Wei, the former world number one from Malaysia, or Chen Long, the top-seeded world number one who is likely to be his team-mate in Rio.—AFP

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