Chen Long is one shuttler who will add to the mystique and allure at the upcoming Olympics as he prepares to enter the fray as the sole defending badminton champion in Tokyo.
The Chinese shuttler, who conquered Lee Chong Wei in straight games to win gold in Rio, will touch down in Tokyo having not featured in any international tournaments in 16 months.
China’s travel restrictions meant that none of their shuttlers played on the BWF World Tour events this year, as they were confined to training and having simulation matches with only their team-mates.
But not seeing Chen Long in action for so long should only make him a bigger threat when badminton gets underway on July 24.
“I am intrigued to know how Chen Long and Shi Yuqi will fare at the Olympics. It has been more than a year since they played on the international circuit, and I am curious to know how good they are now,” said Malaysia’s world number eight Lee Zii Jia.
Chen Long’s last match before the lockdown was against Lee at the 2020 All-England, which he lost 12-21, 18-21 in the quarter-finals.
In fact, the world number six did not have a great 2020, not making it beyond the last eight in his two events, the other being the Malaysia Masters.
Still only 32, the Jingzhou-born will be one of the most experienced shuttlers at the Olympics, and should be hard at work during lockdown in preparation to unleash himself in Tokyo.
“After winning the Rio Olympics, I became the target of most men’s singles players. There would be added excitement when they played me. A victory would be a bonus for them, and to lose is expected.
“So there was always pressure on me. But I have won all major titles since winning the Olympics, so now I can learn to enjoy the sport, which is important to prolong my playing career,” Chen Long told Badminton Unlimited recently.
Having won everything the game has to offer, Chen Long is setting sight on equaling another record that could be unrivalled: to defend his gold medal, and stand on equal ground with Lin Dan as the most successful men's singles shuttlers ever to grace the Olympics.