BEIJING: Li Yongbo, who led the Chinese national badminton team to gold medal victory at six Olympic games, will step down as head coach, media reports said Wednesday.
Fans have been calling for Li’s retirement since China’s subpar performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where they won only two gold medals, the lowest number since 2000.
“After serving so many years in the post, I feel tired…and I’ve realised it is time to step back and give the younger generation the opportunity to use their new thinking to lead the team,” Tengxun Sport quoted Li as saying.
He will be reassigned along with some other coaching staff to an advisory panel with the Chinese Olympic Committee, the report said.
The national team did not issue a statement on the move and did not respond to AFP’s requests for confirmation.
During his 24-year tenure as head coach, Li saw China secure its position as the sport’s most successful country, winning 18 Olympic gold medals as well as numerous international tournaments.
But “Li’s progressive winner-take-all mindset and outspoken personality have seen him in hot water constantly throughout his career,” according to China Daily.
Chinese badminton players have seen a fallow period, with former champions including Fu Haifeng and Lin Dan retiring or set to retire.
Last month, the team suffered their worst tournament in two decades at the All-England Open in Birmingham.
China captured only one title, the mixed doubles, through Lu Kai and Juang Yaqiong, which equalled the lowest total in two decades.
On social media, although most welcomed the news of Li’s retirement, many also paid tribute to his illustrious career.
“People may focus on the negative news…but the country’s brilliant success in the sport could not have happened without this great coach,” one fan wrote.