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Badminton: ‘Dark Dan’ lights up BWF World Champs on Olympics anniversary

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Two-time Olympic gold medallist Lin Dan was the star attraction on the opening day of the BWF World Championships in Guangzhou, China.

 

August 5, 2013: A year to the day since beating World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei in the final of the London Olympics, a suntanned Lin Dan clinically dismissed Sattawat Pongnairat of the USA 21-6, 21-9 in the first round of the BWF World Championships in Guangzhou.

 

Since successfully defending his Olympic crown at Wembley Arena in an epic contest against Lee, ‘Super Dan’ has almost completely avoided tournament play. He competed at the Badminton Asia Championship in April in Taiwan, but withdrew ahead of the semi-finals citing an injury to his left shoulder.

 

With his marriage to fellow badminton player Xie Xingfang last December marking one of his rare public appearances in the last 12 months, his first competitive tournament in China for over a year brought huge anticipation – and as he so often does, the 29-year-old legend delivered for his fans.

 

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Lin beat Sattawat Pongnairat of the USA 21-6, 21-9.

Looking fit and in good form, he pounded out his first 11 points in just three minutes as he outclassed Sattawat, who is seeded 54th, one below Lin, who needed a wildcard to enter the tournament due to his plummeting ranking.

 

“I did my best,” Lin said when asked if he had deliberately extended the game to get some more match practice. “In every match, my priority is to get to 21 points first, so I always do my best to win a game. I don’t consider anything else.”

 

Lin’s compatriots and the world’s badminton community have eagerly awaited his appearance at the Tianhe Sport Centre as he defends his 2011 title, his fourth following three ‘successive’ titles in 2006, 2007 and 2009. The event is not held in Olympic years.

 

“Before I came here, all the media and all the fans have had very high expectations of my performance in the championship,” he said.

 

“For me, I want to have a very good attitude to every match and try to seize every opportunity and win every point. Anything can happen in a match, so a good attitude and a good mental state is important this week.”

 

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Lin speaks to the media after his first competitive match in China for over a year.

Lin said he did not get the time to watch Lee beat Irishman Scott Evans 21-14, 21-15 in an earlier encounter. Lee, the top seed, is in the other half of the draw to Lin, creating the potential for another epic contest in the final.

 

“Lee is excellent and one of the greatest players in badminton history. It doesn’t matter who plays in the final,” Lin said.

 

“What we need are more active and exciting matches throughout the championship, because that will help the sport of badminton.”

 

In the bottom half of the draw, Chen Long, the World No. 2 and currently China’s top-ranked player, was ruthless as the 24-year-old crushed Luka Wraber of Austria 21-2, 21-5.

 

However, World No. 3 Du Pengyu had to battle hard to survive a tough three-game battle with Korean Son Wan-ho, the Chinese losing the second set before winning 21-17, 16-21, 21-13.

 

Du, who beat Chen in straight games to win this year’s Badminton Asia Championships, has had tough matches with Son in their previous two encounters, winning both in close encounters.

 

Son, who won the India Open on last year’s Superseries, looked impressive as he continues to find his form following a long injury layoff following last year’s Olympics and a stint in the army.

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