An embarrassing few days for Chinese badminton continued as home players missed out on all five titles in the China Open – the first time in the tournament’s 30-year history.
After Lin Dan’s affair scandal dominated social media in the days leading up to the final, his teammates – sans Lin – embarrassingly failed on home soil in a sport they have traditionally dominated.
And in a blow for Hong Kong fans, Olympic champion Chen Long pulled out of this week’s Hong Kong Open after being shocked in the China Open final.
The state-linked tabloid Global Times said that the Weibo hashtag about Lin’s affair had racked up an astonishing 2.5 billion views by Sunday afternoon after intimate pictures of the two-time Olympic champion, one of China sport’s biggest stars, with a woman were posted on the social media site.
There were 690,000 comments on that topic. Another hashtag “Lin Dan out of control after drinking” was clicked on 1.4 million times after the woman involved made that claim.
Lin was not in action at the China Open – his wife has just given birth, adding fuel to the scandal – but if he was hoping his teammates might provide some positive headlines to distract attention from the story he was disappointed.
The mixed doubles pair of Zhang Nan and Li Yinhui were outclassed by Rio champions Tontowi Ahamad and Liliyana Natsir from Indonesia in the last final on Sunday, confirming that China’s team – hit by injuries and retirements to long-serving players – would finish without a title.
Chen suffered a shock defeat to Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen in the men’s final; Sun Yu was beaten by Rio silver medallist Pusarla V Sindhu in the women’s; in the women’s doubles sixth seeds Chang Ye-na and Lee So-hee from South Korea beat home team Huang Dongping and Li Yinhui; in men’s doubles China didn’t even reach the final.
China’s veteran coach Li Yongbo didn’t show up to a post-tournament press conference, Xinhua reported.
China have won 84 of the 130 titles on offer at the event since it was first held in 1986. China had won 24 of 27 available titles in women’s singles and 25 in women’s doubles.
Traditionally all-powerful in badminton, the team had its worst Olympics ever in the summer, with only Chen and the men’s doubles team of Zhang and Fu Haifeng winning titles. At London 2012, they swept all five titles.
China’s team – minus Lin and Chen – will be looking to get back on track this week at the Hong Kong Open.