A familiar question has arisen again in recent weeks: should Lin Dan , a fearsome champion once known as “Super Dan” to his rivals, call it a day after yet another dismal performance, this time at the prestigious All England Open? It seems so to many in the badminton community, although the one-time top player in the world has his vowed to play on. Earlier this week in Birmingham, the 35-year-old, who once ruled the world of badminton after clinching an unprecedented two Olympic singles championships, suffered a first-round exit at the All England when he was eliminated by Kenta Tsunami of Japan. The Japanese number three prevailed after three games for a 19-21, 21-14, 21-7 win following an hour-long clash. This early exit, unfortunately, was not a one-off for Lin. Judging from his performances over the past 12 months, Lin should put aside his target of booking a fifth consecutive appearance at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year which, at this point, looks like a bridge too far. And time is not on his side any more. It was indeed surprising when Lin said, after his defeat at the 2018 Hong Kong Open in November – also in the first round – that he would be looking to make a fifth Olympic appearance since his debut at Athens in 2004, the same year he surged to prominence after defeating Peter Gade of Denmark in winning the first of six All England Open titles. According to the qualification rules, each nation can send a maximum of two singles players to Tokyo, provided both are in the top 16 of the qualifiers by April 2020. The qualification campaign kicks off next month and Lin’s current ranking is 12th. If Lin wants to make it to Tokyo, he must surpass one of his fellow Chinese national team members, who both currently rank far higher than him – world number two Shi Yuqi and world number four Chen Long, singles champion at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Can veteran Lin pull it off? Throughout 2018, Lin lifted just one minor title at the New Zealand Open, a fourth-tier event on the world tour, but suffered first round exits a remarkable nine times. In fact, many were expecting him to end his career at various points last year after such a disappointing run. But still, the world badminton community was impressed by Lin’s courage and determination when he decided to keep going, hoping it would make a difference after emerging from a tough winter training camp ahead of his 2019 campaign. But Lin has still largely struggled. In his first event of the year, he reached the final of the Thailand Masters, a fourth-tier tournament on the world tour, after struggling to clear the previous four rounds in three games. He was no match for Loh Kean Yew of Singapore in a 21-19, 21-18 final defeat. At the next three tournaments, including this week’s All England Open, Lin’s best result was to make the second round. It was not too long ago that the mainlander was still able to deliver at the top level. He clinched his sixth All England title in 2016 after easily beating teammate Tian Houwei 21-9, 21-10 in the final. Two years later, Lin reached his 10th All England final before suffering a three-game defeat against up-and-coming teammate Shi, now China’s number one. The 2018 All England Open was the last time Lin scaled the heights at a major event. Since then, he has never been able to regain his form and at times has looked a shadow of his former self. In 2011 the year before Lin captured his second Olympic crown, he clinched a total of seven titles, including the World Championships which took place at Wembley Arena, the same venue for the 2012 London Olympics. Beaten Lin Dan keen to play on; hints at going for a third Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Games He also managed seven titles in 2007, including the worlds that year. A year later, he clinched his first Olympic crown in front of the home crowd in Beijing. Even at the 2016 Rio Olympics Lin made it to the semi-finals before losing to Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, and then Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in the bronze medal match. Nobody would dispute that Lin has enjoyed a glorious career, but at this point it’s hard to imagine he could do it again. Angus Ng Ka-long stuns legend Lin Dan in Germany to bolster US $1 million All-England hopes Perhaps it is the case that he keeps playing because he signed a lucrative sponsorship deal with gear manufacturer Yonex in 2014 that is worth over HK$10 million a year for 10 years. But Yonex would definitely not want to see its star player crashing out of tournament after tournament, especially with a fast approaching Olympic qualification campaign on the horizon. With little hope of making it to Tokyo, Lin should perhaps save his energy for events he feels comfortable at, if he intends to keep playing and avoid embarrassing early exits at the blue riband events. After all, he has already won everything in badminton and has nothing more to prove. Enjoying the game he fell in love with over two decades ago should be his top priority at this stage of his career.