China's Lin joins stellar All-England line-up ahead of Rio

Sports Monday 07/March/2016 17:12 PM
By: Times News Service
China's Lin joins stellar All-England line-up ahead of Rio

Birmingham, England:This year's All-England Championships is likely to mark the final appearance of five-time champion Lin Dan at the sport's oldest event, as the garlanded Chinese player bids for a berth at the Rio Olympics before a possible retirement.
For the first time since 2012, Lin will appear in the men's draw alongside compatriot Chen Long, the world and defending champion, and Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, the Asian triumvirate who have lifted 11 of the last 12 All-England titles between them.
World number one Chen, 27, has underlined his top seed status by virtue of his six Superseries wins on tour last year. Meanwhile Lee has surged back up the world rankings, from 182nd, to sit behind Chen after his eight-month suspension for doping ended last year.
However the participation of fifth-seeded Lin, who missed the All-England in 2013 and 2014 to take time out from the sport, is the most eagerly anticipated this week.
Lin's win at the German Open on Sunday was his opening event of the year as he bids to win a hat-trick of Olympic singles' titles, the 32-year-old having hinted that the Rio Games could be his final event before retirement.
But with two automatic places available and Chen currently top of the Race to Rio standings, Lin currently sits in seventh place, two places ahead of compatriot Tian Houwei.
"I would say that this is probably the last chance to see these three best players together at the top," Poul-Erik Hoyer, Badminton World Federation president, told Reuters. "Possibly a few may retire while Lee has said that he may continue."
Of Lin's quest to win an unprecedented set of golds, Hoyer added: "It would certainly be the story of the Olympics. If he's in the final it would be very interesting to follow."
Asian domination is less certain in the women's singles, with world champion Carolina Marin of Spain aiming to become the first European to retain the All-England title in the modern era.
Her main rival and last year's runner-up, India's second-seeded Saina Nehwal, has been dogged by a foot injury which has seen her withdraw from a number of recent events.
Li Xuerui, the Olympic champion who also landed the German Open women's singles title, is seeded third and offers China its best hope of usurping Marin's current dominance.
In all, China have won at least two All-England titles across singles and doubles since 2000, but with rivals jostling for bragging rights in Olympic year, the powerhouse nation's record will come under threat this week.
Japan achieved its finest success in badminton history at the year-end Superseries finals in December when Kento Momota and Nozomi Okuhara captured the men's and women's singles titles respectively.