Lin Dan, the Chinese badminton player, also known as ‘Super Dan’, is 30 years old and has dominated his sport in an unparalleled manner. His low ranking is down to the unexplainable ranking system, and also due to the fact that Dan participates in fewer tournaments compared to his rivals. He goes for the big ones, and he rarely ever fails in them. Lin Dan is to Badminton what Federer would have been to Tennis if he had managed to win more Majors after the age of 30, instead of inevitably falling to the younger, faster players in the semis or finals. Dan has been a machine, and for proof, look no further than the miserable Lee Chong Wei—his longtime eternal rival, who has won pretty much every smaller tournament under the sun, but has been denied an Olympic Gold, an Asian Gold and a World Championship Gold thanks to the existence of Dan in the same era. If there was ever a synonym for ‘bridesmaid’, Malaysian Wei would be first name on the list. One would say he must feel like Federer at the French Open in the same era as Nadal, but at least Federer has a French Open title, and many other Majors to go with it. Wei, the current World no. 1, has only managed two Commonwealth Gold medals (thanks to China not being a Commonwealth nation).
Back to Dan though, the Chinese star has—hold your breath—won all the nine major titles in Badminton. He is the only player in the history of Badminton to do so. His name often invokes comparisons to former greats like Wang Wang and Zhao Jianhua, but none of them won an Olympic title, and have 3 World titles between them. Dan meanwhile won everything there is to win, and did this by the age of 28 in 2011.
His Asian Games Final victory at Incheon over 25 year-old and World no. 2 Chen Long extends his streak to 7 over the youngster without losing, this after defeating (once again) poor Wei in the semi-finals, who has had to settle for his second bronze Singles medal at the Games. Most heartbreaking for the Malaysian must have been the 2012 London Olympics final—a marathon match, one of the greatest of all time—where he went down 21-19 to Dan in the third game. 2012 was the same year in which Wei lost yet another All England Final to Dan, as well as the 2013 World Championship final to the same opponent. Dan has just one more career title than Wei (56 to his 55), but the has all the Majors in it, while Wei has had to make do with innumerable Malaysian Open and Indonesian Open titles, including 3 All England Open titles.
He returns on a whim, much like current Tennis Women’s no. 1 Serena Williams, and finds within him the strength to defeat younger players, but definitely looks fitter and more agile than they are. Lately, even after losing the first game, he always come back to win the match—as if courting his opponent and reading his weaknesses for a game before pouncing for the kill. It all depends on his appetite for more, and he still has another year at the top at least, and will continue to haunt Wei till they retire together.