The retirement of two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan signals the end of a golden era of Chinese sporting superstars.
Arguably the greatest badminton player of all time, the 36-year-old said on Saturday, 4 July that he was bringing the curtain down on a career that also brought five world titles.
NBA All-Star Yao Ming, Olympic gold-medal hurdler Liu Xiang, and two-time tennis Grand Slam champion Li Na have all retired in the last decade. And with the ‘Super Dan’ curtain call, people cannot help but sigh.
The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has slowly faded.
When will the next Lin Dan appear? Or when will the next Yao Ming, Liu Xiang, and Li Na appear?. Where is the next Chinese sports superstar who will create a collective memory for us?
The quartet were not just world leaders in their sport and popular in China, but also had “considerable influence in the international arena and became a window for the world to understand China,” Xinhua said.
Of prominent Chinese athletes left, women’s volleyball player Zhu Ting has the potential to rise to superstar level, Xinhua said, while disgraced swimmer Sun Yang “enjoys high popularity (in China), but unfortunately, he is banned”.
The 28-year-old is appealing against an eight-year ban for refusing to give a doping sample. The three-time Olympic freestyle champion’s career will effectively be over if he loses his appeal at the Swiss Federal Tribunal.
China has world champions in other sports and finished third behind the United States and Britain in the medal table at the Rio 2016 Olympics, but they are not generally well-known even inside the country, Xinhua said.