Double Olympic badminton champion Lin Dan out to silence doubters
The Chinese superstar is aiming for his third Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020.
Too old. Too slow.
Lin Dan has heard it all before.
The 35-year-old badminton veteran is no stranger to the highs and lows of sport, but these days he seems to be experiencing more of the latter.
The double Olympic champion has not qualified for the season ending World Tour Finals in Guangzhou, China.
In fact on paper, the 2018 season is one of his most disappointing to date.
Despite this, the shuttler is clearly far from finished.
“I will work hard … it’s not easy to come through after all these years as you don’t see too many players who are still competing at my age,” Lin Dan told the South China Morning Post.
Down but not out
That this season hasn't gone to plan for the Chinese is an understatement.
The once feared "Super Dan" has been knocked out nine times in the opening round of a tournament this season. Although it's worth noting that his last two first-round defeats were at the hands of reigning World Champion Kento Momota at the Hong Kong and China Open.
Lin has made it to a final twice this season but has only managed to secure one title, the New Zealand open, a fourth-tier tournament in May.
The three-time All England Open winner came close to adding a fourth title but was denied at the final hurdle by compatriot Shi Yuqi, who is 13 years his junior.
So what's keeping the record five-time world champion on court?
"I hope I can hang in there and take part in the Tokyo Olympic Games." - Lin Dan to the South China Morning Post
The Beijing 2008 champion became the first men's singles player to defend his title at London 2012.
By the time Tokyo 2020 comes round Lin will be 37 years old.
Instead of bowing to the critics demanding his retirement, Lin defiantly announced that he wanted to challenge for a third Olympic gold medal.
While he might not have the sting of his younger self, the fire still flickers.
In his match against red-hot Momota in Hong Kong, Lin had chances to take the opening set. Had he done so, he might be further along on the path to redemption.
This narrow loss, combined with his Super 1000 tournament final loss to Shi Yuqi, again in three sets, demonstrates that Lin can go toe-to-toe with the best, and perhaps he just needs a little more time to build consistency.
The naysayers will will be quick to point out that Lin is one of the oldest players on court.
The veteran is more than a decade older than the reining World Champion and physical fitness could become more of an issue.
But Lin Dan is no ordinary player and is willing to adapt.
With typical fighting spirit he would rather win back favour with his performances than take the easier route of retiring.
“If you fail to perform, you are under criticism but you have to take this positively, trying to find out the reasons and face the problem,” Lin Dan continued to the South China Morning Post.
“I haven’t suffered any major injury over these years and why not I continue to stay in badminton.”
The next steps
Lin currently sits at 13th in the BWF world rankings.
He would have to be in the top-16 to secure the second spot on the Chinese singles squad, so this algorithm alone may be enough to suggest that Lin still has what it takes.
With Shi Yuqi and Chen Long also in the mix, the Chinese team is not short of talent and Lin's challenge will be far from easy.
But don't count him out.