China’s Lin Dan swept to his sixth All-England Championships title on Sunday and then insisted he was good enough to win a third Olympic men’s singles gold medal at Rio 2016.
Nozomi Okuhara celebrated her 21st birthday by prevailing in a brutal 99-minute women’s final to win Japan’s first singles title since 1977.
Lin produced his best performance of the week as he outclassed Tian Houwei 21-9 21-10 in an all-Chinese final to join Ireland’s Frank Devlin, Denmark’s Erland Kops and Indonesia’s Rudy Hartono with six or more All-England titles.
“All the Chinese coaches are here and at 32 I wanted to show them that I can still do it,” Lin said of his expected Olympic tilt later this year.
“It’s not just about getting Rio qualification points. In China you aren’t selected just by being an Olympic champion. You have to be at your physical best and prove yourself.”
Lin soon underlined why he is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time thanks to an almost faultless performance.
He led 7-1 with an array of overhead winners and never let Tian settle in the opening exchanges. Mixing his pace with clever lifts and precise shot-making, Lin sucked Tian into a number of forced errors – nine alone in the opener.
The former world champion continued the onslaught in the second, holding a 11-3 advantage before Tian went for broke and won five points in a row.
However, at 15-10, Lin stopped the 24-year-old’s run before finding his range to win the next six points of the contest, the last four celebrated with a fist-pump in front of a sell-out arena.
“This is my ninth All-England final, my sixth title and my best performance of the week,” said Lin, unbeaten in 16 matches on the world circuit, his longest winning streak since 2011.
Okuhara’s victory followed her Superseries finals’ success as she beat twice winner Wang Shixian 21-11 16-21 21-19 in the second-longest match of the tournament.
In an eventful encounter – the scoreboard broke in the second game and the umpire reverted to pen and paper – Okuhara withheld a stunning comeback from Wang before the Chinese came unstuck in the decider, receiving a conduct point for time wasting.
A tired Wang was leading 12-8 before the umpire gave her a first yellow card. Okuhara then rattled off five points in a row, including a point in her favour thanks to Wang’s second card at 18-17, to give the Nagano shuttler breathing space.
“I realise I will have a lot of rivals coming into Rio but I will fix those problems,” said a delighted Okuhara.