PETALING JAYA: Lin Dan of China has paid tribute to his nemesis Lee Chong Wei for bringing out the best in him.
In fact, the recently-retired badminton legend Lin Dan admitted that it was the “push” from Chong Wei that had earned him the greatest of all time (GOAT) tag.
The 36-year-old, who won every singles honour in world badminton, including two Olympics gold medals and five World Championships titles, revealed how his fierce rivalry with Chong Wei over the years had helped him surpass his own limits – something that he could not acquire through training.
“He (Chong Wei) is a very, very great sportsman. He trains very hard everyday to get in top condition so that he could beat me and become a champion, ” said Lin Dan, in a talk show hosted by China’s table tennis legend Deng Yaping recently.
“Sometimes, having such a great opponent is more important than a coach. It’s his perseverance and strength that really push you. When you think that it’s ‘okay’ already, he will make you lift your standard up a notch.
“To have faced a strong, great player and opponent like Chong Wei, makes my career Grand Slam (referring to the nine major titles – Olympics, World Championship, World Cup, Thomas Cup, Sudirman Cup, Super Series Masters Finals, All-England, Asian Games and Asian Championship) even more fulfilling.”
Lin Dan and Chong Wei, who called it quits a year earlier due to health reasons, had forged one of the greatest sporting rivalries throughout the past 15 years during which they played a total of 40 matches.
Lin Dan won 28 times but his notable victories include denying Chong Wei in the finals at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympic Games, as well as the 2011 London and 2013 Guangzhou world meets.
In the interview, Lin Dan also revealed how his rivalry with Chong Wei had developed from having a vengeful stare at each other during their younger days to be replaced by mutual respect for each other and friendship in the latter stages.
“When we both first came out to compete (on the international stage) at 17, or 18, the rivalry was very strong. After matches, we would stare fiercely at each other, ” recalled Lin Dan.
“After battling for years, as we settled down and had kids, we look at things more maturely. Of course during the match, we’re still eager to defeat each other just as much, but after that, no matter whether we win or lose, we would still text each other via WeChat.”