Fu, of course, would go on to win a second Olympic gold with Zhang Nan, but it was with Cai that his name will be chiefly associated with. They were to China’s doubles what Lin Dan was to its singles, making the team unassailable at major events.
Cai and Fu shot up the ranks quickly from 2003 onwards. China hadn’t fared particularly well in the previous decade in men’s doubles against strong Indonesian, Korean and Danish opposition, and it was to Cai and Fu’s credit that they stepped in to fill the breach. Within a couple of years they were already claiming the big titles – the All England was theirs in 2005 – and the following year they had their first World Championships.
What made the duo so hard to beat was their ability to play fearless attacking badminton at great pace even under extreme pressure – Cai’s quickness and clever game was aided by Fu’s sledgehammer hits from the back, and there was never an inch given. Their arrival on the scene coincided with a new style of doubles in the 21×3 scoring system, defined by flurries of fast, flat exchanges with no room for error. Cai and Fu thrived despite facing opponents like Hendra Setiawan, Markis Kido, Lee Yong Dae, Chung Jae Sung, Koo Kien Keat, Tan Boon Heong, Mathias Boe, Carsten Mogensen and others.
The World Championships 2009 final against Lee Yong Dae and Chung Jae Sung showcased why Cai and Fu were among the all-time greats – in a fiercely-fought battle, full of lightning-quick rallies and thunderous smashes from either side, Cai and Fu prevailed 21-18 16-21 28-26 in 75 minutes.
In 2010 Cai and Fu became the first men’s doubles pair to win three world titles; a year later, they had their fourth.
One of their few disappointments had been the loss in the Olympics 2008 final on home soil, but they made amends four years later, capturing the coveted title in London 2012. By then, they – along with Lin Dan – had been China’s trump cards in five successive Thomas Cup triumphs and six Sudirman Cup victories.
Olympics: Gold (2012), Silver (2008)
World Championships: Gold (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011)
Thomas Cup: Winners (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012)
Sudirman Cup: Winners (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015)
Other Major Achievements
All England: Winners (2005, 2009)
Japan Open: Winners (2010, 2011)
Indonesia Open: Winners (2007, 2011)
Our fans have voted for the Thomas Cup 2012 final between Cai Yun/Fu Haifeng 🇨🇳 and Lee Yong Dae/Kim Sa Rang 🇰🇷. Catch the Fans’ Match of the Week this Saturday, from 8pm KL time (GMT+8).#BadmintonIcons #BadmintonAtHome pic.twitter.com/OkvBoX7Scn
— BWF (@bwfmedia) September 17, 2020