China's 2016 Olympic men's singles badminton gold medallist Chen Long has announced his retirement ©Getty Images

China’s badminton superstar Chen Long has admitted he is "full of emotion", after announcing his retirement from the sport.

"This is a difficult moment for me - it’s so hard to say goodbye," Chen posted on Chinese social media network Weibo.

"At this special moment, I’m really full of emotion, I want to say thank you to the Chinese badminton team, my family and the fans."

A special retirement ceremony was held in Suzhou during the Sudirman Cup, where his wife, former world number one Wang Shixian joined him on stage.

Chen enjoyed a magnificent career in the sport and won Olympic singles gold at Rio 2016 when he defeated Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei in the final.

An Olympic gold medal at Rio 2016 was the crowning moment of Chen Long's badminton career ©Getty Images
An Olympic gold medal at Rio 2016 was the crowning moment of Chen Long's badminton career ©Getty Images

"Badminton is the love of my life. I was lucky enough to wear the national shirt and play for my country, because not all dreams come true in life."

Chen had showed his potential by winning the 2007 Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Youth Championships.

He was part of the Chinese team which won the Thomas Cup in 2010 although he only played in one of the matches.

He was selected for the London 2012 Olympics and reached the men’s singles semi-finals where he lost to Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei.

Chen returned home with bronze after defeating Lee Hyun-Il. 

The following year he returned to Britain and took revenge on Lee with victory in the All England Championships men's singles final in Birmingham.

The first of his two BWF world titles came in 2014 when he again defeated Lee.

It marked a turnaround in his fortunes as it was his first tournament victory in seven months. 

He also became world number one, a ranking he held over the next year.

He again defeated Lee to win the world title in 2015.

At the Rio 2016 Olympics he beat Viktor Axelsen to reach the Olympic final.

Once again Lee was his opponent and this time Chen won 21-18, 21-18 to take the gold medal.

Afterwards he apologised to journalists for his "impoliteness" in refusing to give interviews earlier in the competition.

Five years later he added a silver to complete his set of all the colours when he lost to Axelsen in the final at Tokyo 2020.

Although his retirement was only confirmed this week, he had not played since the Tokyo Olympics.

"I finally have time to take care of my family after so many years of training and competing," Chen admitted to Chinese State Television network China Central Television,

"Now I'm free to spend more time with my son, taking him to school and picking him up which is a father's responsibility, and makes me happy."

Chen will leave a legacy which also includes two Asian Games gold medals in the team event, five Sudirman Cup titles and three Thomas Cups.

His formal announcement of retirement comes only a few weeks after it was revealed that his contemporaries Lee and Lin Dan, his compatriot and predecessor as Olympic gold medallist, were to be inducted into the BWF Hall of Fame.