Badminton bad boys Lin Dan and Taufik Hidayat are playing for than just their countries at the Thomas Cup this week — they both want bragging rights going into the Beijing Olympics.
World No. 1 Lin and Olympic champion Hidayat have a well documented history of public spats, each earning their reputation with a series of fiery outbursts.
With the Thomas Cup the last major tournament ahead of the Olympics, how the arch-rivals perform, and just as importantly behave, in the team championships will be closely scrutinized.
Lin might be the world’s best player but he is walking a fine line after he allegedly struck coach Ji Xinpeng in a temper tantrum during a training match last month.
It prompted a chorus of calls for him be punished with some fans demanding that the hot-headed star be dumped from China’s Olympic team.
Lin denied striking Ji but subsequently apologized.
The mercurial badminton genius was involved in a similar altercation with South Korea’s Chinese head coach Li Mao in the Korean Open early this year.
In that incident, Lin rushed Li after a questionable line call and appeared poised to hit him with his racket before trainers and team-mates intervened.
His tiffs with Hidayat are legendary and boiled over at the Asian Games in 2006 when the Indonesian superstar launched an attack on Lin, calling him arrogant and unfriendly.
The Chinese star began his Thomas Cup campaign with an early morning 21-6, 21-11 win over Nigeria’s Greg Orobosa Okuonghea yesterday.
While Lin continues to create waves with his behavior as well as with his badminton, Hidayat claims he is a reformed character since having a baby last year.
Indonesia’s biggest sports star insisted in December that his fiesty days were behind him.
“I’m more relaxed and I just think about my family now, not like before,” Hidayat said. “I was a bit terrible but now I’m more quiet. I just think about my family and about the baby.”
Hidayat has provided some of the sport’s more shocking moments.
During the national championships in 2001, he charged into the stands and attacked a spectator. He was also accused of a carpark brawl during the 2004 Thomas Cup in Jakarta, and once threatened to play for Singapore in a row over coaching.