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Absence of big names allows new generation to rise at BWF China Open

By Liu Yang | Xinhua | Updated: 2016-11-16 16:37

FUZHOU - Badminton superstars Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei will not attend the Thaihot 2016 BWF China Open that kicks off on Tuesday in China's Fuzhou, but their absence could allow a new generation to rise to the occasion and pick up the torch.

As part of the Metlife BWF World Superseries Premier, the China Open will attract 214 shuttlers from 19 countries and regions around the world. Former Olympic champion Lin Dan of China did not register for the event, while Malaysian badminton king Lee Chong Wei is sitting out the tournament due to injury, according to a BWF official.

Lee, who was expected to defend his title here, picked up the injury at last month' s Denmark Open, where the three-time Olympic silver medalist crashed out in the quarterfinals after losing to France's Brice Leverdez. The 34-year-old veteran withdrew from the French Open on Oct 26 due to a hamstring injury.

Men's singles champion from the Rio Olympics Chen Long will take part in the China Open after a three-month rest. It is his first performance since Rio. He will confront Indonesian Tommy Sugiarto in the first round of men's singles action.

Many Chinese veterans announced their retirement from the national team after Rio. These include Wang Yihan, Wang Shixian, Yu Yang, Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei, and none of them are slated to show up in this tournament either.

However, many young athletes will fight for a place on the podium at this event, which features a 700,000 dollar prize pot.

20-year-old Chinese shuttler Shi Yuqi is one entrant. He won titles in men's singles at the French Open and the Bitburger Open in Germany several weeks ago. 19-year-old Chinese female He Bingjiao won the women's singles title at the Japan Open, French Open and Bitburger Open. Shi and He have fought their way into the Top 10 in world rankings.

Chen Qingchen, born in 1997, came of age at the elite level this year, winning her first superseries title in Australia in June with Bao Yixin in women's doubles. With Zheng Siwei, she also demonstrated her potential in mixed doubles, capturing 3 titles in Japan, France and Bitburger. The Zheng/Chen combination has everything going for it to be viewed as the successor to the Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei combination that brought several titles to China.

With Jia Yifan, Chen picked up her first superseries women's doubles title at the Yonex French Open. The pair will meet Japanese duo Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto, while Chen/Zheng will encounter the Chinese Taipei combination of Lu Ching Yao/Chiang Kai Hsin in the first round of China Open action.

"We are very pleased to see that the younger generation has risen to the world stage. They are strong and talented but inexperienced. I believe they'll become excellent players and have stable performances after one season or two," said Li Yongbo, head coach of the Chinese national team.

In men's doubles, China will send seven pairs to join the competition, including number-one seeded pair Hong Wei/Chai Biao and number-three seed Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen.

Some big international names are also set to attend the China Open. They include Rio women's singles champion Carolina Marin of Spain, men's singles third place finisher Viktor Axelsen of Denmark, and Danish veteran Jan O Jorgensen.

The tournament will last for 6 days and begins with qualification and the first round of mixed doubles on Tuesday.

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