Lin Dan became the first badminton player to seal the sport's 'Super Grand Slam' by winning all nine of its major titles in 2011. (Reuters File Photo)
Kolkata, July 4 (IANS): 'A king' is how Malaysian badminton great Lee Chong Wei chose to describe China's two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan, arguably the greatest badminton player of the 21st century who called time on his illustrious career on Saturday.
Lee and Lin have had many duels in the past, the supreme shuttlers providing the sport grace unmatched in badminton's history. Of their 40 meetings, Lin won 28.
But when the Chinese badminton colossus, Lin, said physical fitness is the reason he no longer can continue bedazzling the world, Lee, who retired in June last year after a battle with cancer, paid an emotional tribute to his 'arch rival' on Twitter.
"We knew this day would arrive, Heavy moment of our lives; You pulled down the curtain gracefully, You were king where we fought so proudly; Your final wave all four disappear, Within the hush of silent tear.#lindan," he wrote.
"I've dedicated everything to the sport I love," Lin said in a post on China's Twitter-like Weibo. "My family, coaches, teammates and fans have accompanied me through many happy times and difficult moments."
"Now I'm 37 years old, and my physical fitness and pain no longer allow me to fight side by side with my teammates," he said.
Lin was eyeing a third third Olympic gold in Tokyo to add to his collection of golds he won in 2008 and 2012. But for someone who bossed the sport like no other, winning virtually everything there is to capture, it does not matter at the end of the day.
In an eight year span between 2006 and 2014, Lin waltzed to virtually every major final he took part in, including five Worlds, two Olympics and two Asian Games golds.
Legends of the game Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long struggled to get the better of him more often than not, underlining Lin's class.
Lin brought out his best in big matches, often displaying his best game in high pressure situations which showed his mental toughness.
Lin became the first badminton player to seal the sport's 'Super Grand Slam' by winning all nine of its major titles in 2011.
A six-time All England champion, Lin was born to a Hakka family in Shanghang County, Longyan, Fujian. Lin was encouraged to learn to play the piano at a young age by his parents, and to be a pianist. However, as fate would have it, he chose to play badminton and the rest was history.
His autobiography, 'Until the End of the World', was published after he defended his Olympic title at the London 2012 Games.