Genius in Action: Cai Yun & Fu Haifeng

Genius in Action: Cai Yun & Fu Haifeng

Four World Championships crowns and an Olympic gold stand out in a glittering treasure chest that Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng accumulated in the course of an epic career.

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 Yun’s (left) all-round sharpness was complemented by Fu’s fierce smashes.

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.

Their biggest moment – winning the Olympic gold in 2012.

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.

Career Highlights

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)