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Denmark’s badminton legend Peter Gade acknowledges to fans after an exhibition game to announce his retirement in Copenhagen December 27, 2012. [Photo/CFP]
COPENHAGEN - Peter Gade enjoyed a fairy tale ending to his 17 year long career as a badminton player when he beat China superstar Lin Dan in an exhibition match at the Copenhagen Masters on Thursday. Gade won the match in three sets, 20-22, 21-16, 21-14.
Gade, now 36, was ranked as the world number one between 1998 and 2001 and briefly regained the spot in 2006. He won neither the World Championship nor the Olympic Games but was the All England champion in 1999 and a five time European champion and won 22 Grand Prix titles.
He is regarded as one of the all time greatest badminton players and was a boyhood idol of his opponent Lin who had accepted a personal invitation from Gade to play him in his farewell match.
The crowd was wearing Gade masks on their faces and Gade emerged covered in artificial smoke as the Danish badminton star entered the court as a professional for the very last time. Tickets at the Copenhagen venue Falconer Salen were sold out in just about seven minutes as everyone wanted to say a final goodbye to Gade.
Lin for his part was playing for the first time in Denmark. The Chinese super star has taken some time out from badminton following his gold medal victory at the London Olympics earlier this year and is not expected to return to competitive action until March but wanted to be a part of Gade's farewell.
"He is a bit older than me but Peter was one of my idols and I watched all his matches. It is fantastic for me to be playing against Peter in his farewell match after all these years. He has been part of the game for more than 15 years and his talent comes naturally," Lin told Danish television TV2 Sport prior to the match.
Even royalty offered its salute to Gade in the shape of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik who said:
"Peter Gade has done a huge amount for Danish badminton. He has got fantastic charisma and has been the strongest Danish player of the last 15 years. He has shown incredible persistence to be part of the elite for so many years. Peter Gade is the most well known Dane in China besides H.C. Andersen. The fact that Lin Dan comes here to play Peter in his final match says everything about just how big a name Peter is."
Boasting a record as four times world champion, five times All England champion and two times Olympic champion, the 29 year old Lin is arguably the biggest badminton star on the world scene of the past decade.
He did appear somewhat out of touch in the beginning of the match though, as Gade raced into a 7-0 lead which he expanded to 11-2 and 14-5. Lin made a lot of unforced errors and sent balls slightly wide or long. Gade had only defeated Lin three times in official competition throughout his career while Lin had beat Gade 17 Times. They met for the first time in the Danish Open of 2002 which Gade won in three sets.