Chen Long: Consistency Personified

Chen Long: Consistency Personified
Chen Long

The retirement of Chen Long brings to an end the career of one of the greats of contemporary badminton.

Chen arrived when the world was still in thrall of the Big Four – Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei, Taufik Hidayat and Peter Gade. And while in the early part of his career he was always in the shadow of his senior compatriot Lin, he would quickly establish his own identity.

There was one word his contemporaries used frequently while describing him – “stable”. Chen’s biggest virtue was his ability to play error-free, precise and stable badminton for long periods, built on his incredible defence, but he also had the explosiveness and speed to pulverise opponents. His game was based on his physicality, and as a physical specimen he cut a distinct sight – owning the court, as it were.

Chen after winning the final at Rio 2016.

These attributes were most in evidence at his three biggest victories – the Olympic gold at Rio 2016 and World Championships gold at Copenhagen 2014 and Jakarta 2015. In all three finals he outgunned Lee  in straight games.

There were, of course, many other big titles – including the Asian Championships (2017), All England (2013, 2015), Denmark Open (2011, 2013, 2014, 2015), China Open (2010, 2012, 2013, 2017), and Superseries Finals (2012, 2014). In team competitions he was frequently the spearhead, nearly always ensuring a point for China in Thomas Cup and Sudirman Cup campaigns.

Chen was renowned for his steady play.

For China, Chen was a blessing, in the capable manner in which he took the baton from Lin. His senior compatriot was irreplaceable, but Chen delivered the results for China when he was called upon to do so, both in team and individual competitions. His two World Championships and one Olympic gold ensured that China’s dominance of men’s singles continued well after Lin’s prime.

Chen wasn’t one of the frontline medal contenders when he arrived at Tokyo 2020, having not played international badminton in the previous 16 months. Yet, he showed he was still a force to reckon with, as he beat Lee Zii Jia, Chou Tien Chen and Anthony Sinisuka Ginting to make the final. And while he did lose to Viktor Axelsen in the final, he could look back with satisfaction at the complete set of Olympic medals that he’d earned – bronze at London 2012, gold at Rio 2016 and silver at Tokyo 2020. It turned out to be a fitting end to a great career.

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