(Reuters) - China's two-time Olympic badminton champion Lin Dan, one of the sport's greatest singles players, announced his retirement on Saturday.
Fondly called 'Super Dan' by badminton fans across the world, Lin became the first shuttler to retain the Olympic title when he won in the 2012 London Games after his triumph in the home event in Beijing in 2008.
"I've dedicated everything to the sport I love. My family, coaches, team mates and fans have accompanied me through many happy times and difficult moments," Chinese media quoted Lin as saying in the retirement announcement.
"Now I'm 37 years old, and my physical fitness and pain no longer allow me to fight side by side with my team mates," Lin added.
Lin also won all the sport's major titles, including five gold medals at the world championships between 2006 and 2013 and six All England crowns.
The left-handed shuttler also helped China to six gold medals in the Thomas Cup men's team event and five titles in the mixed Sudirman Cup.
He also helped the national side to three gold medals in team event and two individual singles titles at the Asian Games.
"From 2000 to 2020, after 20 years, I have to say goodbye to the national team. It is very difficult to speak it out," said Lin.
Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei, who lost to Lin in both the Olympic finals in Beijing and London, hung up his racquet last year due to prolonged health issues.
The rivalry between Chong Wei and Lin was considered legendary and the Malaysian paid rich tribute to his on-court nemesis through a poem on social media, accompanied by pictures of them together as children and adults.
"We knew this day would arrive, Heavy moment of our lives; You pulled down the curtain gracefully, You were king where we fought so proudly; Your final wave all four disappear, Within the hush of silent tear," Chong Wei wrote on Twitter with the hashtag #lindan.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Christian Schmollinger)