Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng probably deserve greater global recognition than they have received.
Talk of China and badminton often centres on other players with perhaps more star appeal, so much so that the amazing accomplishments of this duo get overlooked.
However, the London Olympics provides another stage for them to add to their glittering record and partnership which has endured for the past decade.
It is indeed a record of which they should be justly proud!
Four World Championships crowns in the last five events; two All England titles; several Thomas, Sudirman and other crowns won many times over. Cai and Fu are easily the most successful pair in contemporary Men’s Doubles. The only major title glaringly missing from their collection is a gleaming Olympic gold.
On home soil four years ago, they were agonisingly thwarted in the finals by the Indonesian pair of Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan. It’s an anomaly they will want to address at the London Olympics.
“The Olympics take place once every four years, unlike most championships that are held annually, so that fuels every athlete’s desire to win an Olympic Games medal,” said the right-handed Cai Yun, attributing their “ten-year journey” to a deep understanding and respect for each other’s personalities.
“We have won all the major titles in the sport except the Olympic Games, so to win the Olympic gold would be the perfect conclusion of our career together.”
Additionally, 28-year-old Fu noted the Olympic Games’ ancient and prestigious history makes it every athlete’s dream to win their respective event.
Of course, the battle at Wembley Arena assumes even more significance given the broad hint that this could be the durable pair’s last hurrah. They are confident but not over confident about their chances of being on top of the podium.
“Our preparations for the Olympic Games are progressing reasonably well, we are taking it a step at a time to shape up for the Games and we believe that the Olympic Games will see us in top shape,” said 32-year-old Cai.
While the defending champions will not be in the mix this time, Fu is under no illusion that their path to the gold is a foregone conclusion. Standing in their way are many pairs with the potential to repeat the feat of Markis and Hendra in Beijing.
“We are surprised they did not qualify for the Olympics but, even without their presence, many of our worthy opponents from other countries have qualified. In fact with so many top quality pairs in the competition, winning the Men’s Doubles Olympic gold medal is a very tough task,” reasoned Fu.
In fact, fans may already be anticipating another of the legendary clashes between the Chinese and their Korean rivals Lee Yong Dae and Jung Jae Sung. Matches between the two pairs are often absorbing, showing the heights to which the doubles game can ascend. These matches have hinged on the smallest error or the slimmest margin. They have also been exhibitions of astounding skill, power and athletic ability. The two teams are almost neck-and-neck in victories against each other; the Koreans leading 11-10 thanks to their triumph in the All England final.
Left-handed Fu believes the solid Korean pair could again be their biggest challengers but there are other contenders as well, including Korea’s second pair Ko Sung Hyun/Yoo Yeon Seong; Malaysia’s Koo Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong and Denmark’s Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen.
“Basically, every country has a top pair that will pose a threat to us,” declared Fu.
Whatever the outcome, badminton Olympic Men’s Doubles is truly an intriguing prospect and Cai and Fu – already super achievers– hope that when the shuttles stop flying, they will have conquered all.