The curtains fell on a spellbinding era for Chinese badminton last month when head coach Li Yongbo stepped down after 24 years – but a new chapter has begun with the appointment of former Olympic and World champions to the top role.
Li, who became head coach in 1992, led China to 18 Olympic titles and ten Sudirman Cups, as well as nine Uber Cup and five Thomas Cup victories during his lengthy tenure.
His Olympic success included a clean sweep of the gold medals at London 2012, but four years later China only managed to return from Rio with two gold medals.
He will be replaced at the helm by former world champion Xia Xuanze and double Olympic gold medallist Zhang Jun, who will take charge of singles and doubles coaching respectively.
The first test for the new partnership will come at the Sudirman Cup, which gets underway later this month on Australia’s Gold Coast, as the Chinese set-up undergoes a complete reshuffle ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic cycle.
They will be joined in the new-look set-up by former men’s doubles star Wang Wei who will take charge of the development team, while former deputy head coach Tian Bingyi and Xie Zhongbo will become consultants.
Zhang made his name at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games, where he won back-to-back mixed doubles gold alongside Gao Ling, a partnership that also triumphed in three YONEX All England Championships.
The YONEX All England also proved fruitful for Xia, who lifted the men’s singles title at the turn of the millennium, before winning his World title three years later.
“Xia, Zhang and Wang are dedicated to the development of the national team,” China’s badminton governing body said in a statement.
“In addition, they were all world top players during their careers and served as coaches in the national team after retirement.
“After coaching men’s singles and doubles for two Olympic cycles, they are familiar with the players in the national teams, major opponents, and the trend of world badminton development.
“They have the ability to lead the national team to complete the mission of the Tokyo Olympic cycle.”