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One lovebird ready to fly the badminton nest
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Chinese badminton coach Li Yongbo revealed on Wednesday that former women's world No 1 Xie Xingfang will hang up her racquets after October's National Games; meaning she will live a different lifestyle to boyfriend, Lin Dan.

The love birds have been in the spotlight, on and off court, since their romance came to light in 2004.

Their most memorable moment came in 2006 when they both won World Championship singles titles in Madrid.

But fans will have no chance to see them compete in the same China team again as Xie, who has been struggling for form over the past two years, bid farewell to the national team after last month's World Championships in Hyderabad, India. One lovebird ready to fly the badminton nest

"Xie is veteran player and she was a good role model for a young team," Li said. "She had done everything she could, so she chose to retire from international competition after the World Championships."

Xie and her senior compatriot and rival, Zhang Ning, have been the most dominant women's singles players in the latter part of this decade, though they have been pressed by younger teammates such as Zhu Lin, Lu Lan, Jiang Yanjiao and Wang Yihan in recent times.

Unlike her boyfriend, who is nicknamed "Super Dan" and won last year's Olympic Games crown and last month's World Championships title, Xie was defeated in the final of both tournaments, by Zhang and Lu respectively. Those losses are believed to have convinced the 28-year-old to call it a day.

"Xie has proved she is one of the best players in the world," said Li. "We respect her decision. The October National Games are likely to be her last tournament. I believe she will continue to devote herself to the sport in a different way."

Lin 'the talent'

To coach Li's delight, Lin is still dominant in the sport and he believes the "rare talent" will continue to reign supreme.

"Lin is one of the few brilliant talents in the sport. I can say he is the one whose like has not been seen in the past century," said Li. "I ask all the other Chinese players to learn from Lin his never-say-die spirit and his technique."

Lin won the men's singles gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics, the only major title that had eluded him.

Last month, he became the only player in badminton history to win three World Championships singles titles in a row.

Lin is also one of the more controversial players due to his flamboyant personality, on and off the court.

He is known as a temperamental player, occasionally disrupting matches to protest line calls.

He is demonstrative in his celebrations and has a habit of playing to the crowd. After winning the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, he threw his shoes and racquet into the crowd.

(China Daily September 4, 2009)

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