Editorial – Lin Dan’s wild card: Good for the sport?

Should Lin Dan have been given a wild card to participate in the upcoming BWF World Badminton Championships?  In my opinion, a resounding yes. There are always pros and cons: […]

Should have been given a to participate in the upcoming BWF World Badminton Championships?  In my opinion, a resounding yes.

There are always pros and cons: first of all, sport isn’t always fair, and the fact that the BWF awarded the wild card to Lin Dan for the upcoming may not be fair to Lee Chong Wei, or the rest of the world. But if we take a closer look at it, it may be a blessing in disguise, for both the sport and for Chong Wei as well.

Let’s face it: Lin Dan is the best player ever. For spectators, an event without Lin Dan is nothing compared to one with Lin Dan. Figures would probably speak for themselves in terms of audience, both spectators in the halls and TV viewers. In my opinion, the BWF did the right thing by awarding the four-time winner a wild card. Remember that four great players have graced the world of badminton in the past 10 years: Peter Gade, Taufik Hidayat, Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan – dubbed the four kings by the Chinese press. This year in Guangzhou, the first two will not be playing, as Taufik will have joined Peter in retirement by then. So, having a third King away from this prestigious competition is maybe too much.

I have only one little fear; I hope that Lin Dan will be playing his best in Guangzhou, rather than playing to clear the way for his compatriots before bowing out with a walkover or only pretending to compete against another Chinese shuttler. If he does the latter, then I guess the BWF will realize it was a mistake and this will mean he – or the Chinese officials – have forgotten what honour is all about. After the Olympic controversy, Badminton can ill-afford the very bad image this would confirm to the rest of the sporting world.

But what if… what if Lin Dan plays at his best?  And what if he reaches the latest stages of the competition thanks to his magic touch? What if, by chance, he is on the other half of the draw from Lee Chong Wei and meets him in the final? This could mean once again, another amazing final. These two shuttlers have probably played the two most exciting matches to watch of the past decade: the final of the World Championships in 2011 and the final of the Olympics in 2012. What could the sport offer more than another battle of these two seasoned warriors, showing the sport at its best? Nothing could beat that, and there is every chance that Chong Wei may come out as the winner this time.

Chong Wei may see it as a blessing after all

Of course, the Malaysian ace is not happy about this decision. Yes, it may have been fairer to give the wild card to a player from country that does not have a representative in the draw. But I must admit that a World Championships without Lin Dan would lose some lustre for me, and probably to a lot of other people, especially the spectators of the Tian He Stadium, which is in the heart of his wife’s city of birth.

And think of it again, perhaps it looks as if it isn’t the best news for Lee Chong Wei, but the Malaysian could very well be World Champion this year. Lin Dan has lacked high level competition since his title in London, something that can not be said for Lee Chong Wei who has continued to play around the world. I’m sure that a crown, lifted in Guangzhou having beating Lin Dan – in the final or earlier – would taste much sweeter for the Malaysian veteran. If Lee were to win his only world title in a tournament without Lin Dan in the draw, then people would always question the validity, whether Lee won the title because Lin Dan wasn’t there. This is arguably his best chance to show that he deserves a world title and he more than has what it takes to win this first ever title for Malaysia.

Regardless of the outcome, it will be an exciting event and Lin Dan’s presence will only make it more interesting. It could also be his last, too, you never know with this badminton genius.

Raphael Sachetat is the Chief Editor of Badzine.net.

Raphaël Sachetat

About Raphaël Sachetat

Raphael is the Chief Editor of Badzine International. He is the founder of the website together with Jean François Chauveau. After many years writing for the BWF and many publications around the world about badminton, he now leads a team of young and dynamic writers for Badzine.