KOREA OPEN 2008 Aftermath – Lin Dan Speaks

The “civil war” that broke out between world number one Lin Dan (pictured) and Li Mao, coach of newly-crowned Korea Open champion Lee Hyun Il, has been the talk of […]

ImageThe “civil war” that broke out between world number one (pictured) and Li Mao, of newly-crowned champion Lee Hyun Il, has been the talk of the town since the match concluded.

By Jan Lin, Badzine Correspondent. Photos: Badmintonphoto

If there are already 4 bad line calls against you that have been overruled by the umpire, you are bound to be more suspicious of line calls than you would normally be.

Players have even walked out of matches because of biased line judgments: Taufik Hidayat did it in 2002 and 2006 and Korea’s top men’s doubles pair Jung Jae Sung/Lee Yong Dae walked out at 16-19 in the rubber game against Chinese pair Guo/Xie in China last year.

It is not uncommon for players to protest as ‘reactively’ as Lin Dan did yesterday because of bad line calls, especially when it is a final match this tight. What was more uncommon was a coach’s similar outburst in response to the opposition’s explosive reaction.

“Firstly, he (Li Mao) was extremely provocative with the words he strewed at me. At the time of the incident, he stood up and said something which implied that the umpire had been biased towards me by overruling the previous line calls. I was also affected by how he could act so indignant and righteous despite the biased line judging that was going on,” accounted the reigning world champion.

It was apparent that Li Mao’s words had provoked and pushed Lin Dan to the breaking point, as Lin Dan mindlessly and disdainfully tossed his racket towards his antagonist Li. Lin Dan accounted for his outburst, “I was consumed by anger when I saw his behaviour; I was struggling to understand how he could act so righteous and indignant about the biased line calls that were clearly in favour of them.

This is, after all, their home ground, which would have already put them in a favourable position to win the title. There are a lot of factors beyond my control playing on my opponent’s homeground, but what really upset me was how Li Mao acted all righteous about the situation and even resorted to using such provocative words.

ImageLin Dan, however, was careful to stress that Li Mao (pictured right) was just being his usual self and not issuing a personal attack at him. Though, it was still sufficient to hurt his ego as Lin Dan had felt that Li Mao had implied that he was relying on umpire’s assistance to get him this far in the match.

According to Chinese reports, Li Mao had remarked to Lin Dan, “Why should everything go in favour of you?” – which would be a neutral question in its own right barring the tense circumstances that might have triggered Lin Dan to read between the lines too much.

He wasn’t scolding me per se but his choice of words were evocative and carried implications of his apparent displeasure against the Chinese team; there were vulgarities too,” said Lin, who also admitted his fault for losing control of his emotions too.

Lin Dan is known to put more emotion than most players do into the game, but he was often able to keep them in relative control and yesterday was the first time he came completely undone by his emotions. Lin clarified, “What happened took me to a point where I was overwhelmed by my emotions, I tried my best to get a grip, but it was really difficult under those circumstances.

Throughout the match, Lin Dan claimed that he was already tolerating Li Mao’s repeated attempts to interfere and question the umpire’s professional judgment of the match and of Lin Dan himself. Though it was not uncommon for coaches to fend for their players in this manner.

Lin Dan revealed, “I was aware that Li Mao had repeatedly displayed his dissent towards the umpire’s judgment, which placed a lot of pressure on both the umpire and on myself.

In fact, Li Mao did not deny this claim. He confessed to the Chinese press, “When I saw Lin Dan appealing for the overrule at 21-all, I stood up with the intention of applying pressure on the umpire (to not be simply swayed by Lin’s reaction) and I gestured a ‘point is good’ signal to the umpire too.

Li also admitted to having hurled words at Lin Dan, but he stressed he had only spoken up after Lin Dan had hurled his racket towards them. Li Mao barely spoke up before the racket was hurled, he revealed, “I (only started to express myself because I) was appalled by Lin Dan’s reaction (of hurling the racket). It was fortunate that he did not hit us or anyone with his racket.

“To be honest, throughout my coaching career, I’ve not seen an athlete as unruly and uncultivated as he is. It annoyed me so much that I just had to ask him, ‘Do you want to hit me?’ It was then that his coach, Zhong Bo, came over and gave me a push, to which I retaliated with another, before the head referee came over to restore some order.

In Zhong Bo’s statement, he remarked, “Li Mao was speaking to Lin Dan so quickly and with so such furore it looked like he was bordering on insanity. I couldn’t hear what he was saying and I didn’t want to bring it up with Lin Dan after the match, but I’m as certain as everyone is that Li Mao must have used words that provoked Lin Dan.

Zhong Bo also revealed that Lin Dan’s nose started bleeding just before the second set began and the medical team had to see to his condition, which he believed could have affected Lin Dan’s ability to concentrate for the rest of the match.

Zhong Bo reflected on Lin Dan’s defeated saying, “Lin Dan was slightly impatient as well and had trouble adjusting to Hyun Il’s style. It was a combination of factors that contributed to his defeat.

Lin Dan may have lost control of his emotions but Li Mao’s behaviour is not exempted from scrutiny either. According to the regulations, coaches are not allowed to leave their benches, which Li Mao did when he stood up and took two steps forward to provoke Lin Dan with his words.

I only left my bench after seeing that the situation was arriving at its climax and Li Mao was obviously abusing my player with his words. It was only right of me to fend for my player under such circumstances,” said Zhong Bo.

Zhong Bo also clarified the inaccuracy of the internet rumours, which speculated that Lin Dan’s racket was wrecked after the boomerang towards the Korean coaches’ bench. Zhong Bo said, “It is not possible that Lin Dan’s racket hit Li Mao, there was at least 5 to 6 metres away from where the racket landed and where Li Mao was.

The picture of Lin Dan’s broken racket was possibly taken after the match when Lin Dan snapped it himself out of frustration for losing the match. But Lin Dan has been handling the defeat well since returning to China and he also respected the umpire’s decision for issuing him a yellow card.

All along he recognised that it was a fair judgment on him and the whole incident did not start because he was upset with the umpire for not overruling the line call, but rather it was because he felt he was provoked, ” concluded Zhong Bo, once again stressing that it was Li Mao’s “provocation” that was the inherent fire starter to the fiasco in Korea yet acknowledging at the same time that there was ultimately no confirmation of what Li had said, or hadn’t say.

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