Lin Dan, one of badminton’s all-time greats and undoubtedly the most successful men’s singles player of the modern era, announced his retirement on Saturday by saying his time with the Chinese national team had come to an end.

The former world No 1, who won gold at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games, will therefore not compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which have been pushed back to next summer because of coronavirus.

The end of Lin Dan’s glorious career comes just over a year after the retirement of his great rival and friend, the Malaysian star Lee Chong Wei. The duo reigned over badminton for more than a decade.

‘You were king where we fought so proudly’: Lee Chong Wei’s emotional tribute to great rival Lin Dan

“I have been with the national team from 2000 to 2020, and it is very difficult to say goodbye,” 36-year-old Lin Dan said in a post on China’s social media (translated by BWF).

“In 2000, I became the Chinese team’s Lin Dan, and I was happy and proud. My family, coaches, team members and fans accompanied me in many hardships, ups and downs. Every jump smash was a hope for victory; I journeyed across four Olympics.

“I was not thinking of leaving and not willing to think of it. I gave my everything to this sport that I love. ‘Persevere’, I tell myself during every hard time, to let my career prolong. Compared to my younger days when I chased rankings, these (last few) years I challenged myself to the limits of a senior athlete, and living the spirit of never giving up,” Lin Dan added in his statement.

Watch: Anticipation, athleticism, wizardry with the racket – badminton legend Lin Dan’s best shots

Tributes poured in for Lin Dan, and his arch-rival Lee Chong Wei led the way with this emotional farewell: