COPENHAGEN Peter Gade has brought down the curtain on his prolific career happy in the knowledge Danish badminton is in the hands of several promising young compatriots.
Gade battled, seemingly single-handedly at times, to hold back the tide of Asian dominance for over a decade and the five-times European champion and former world number one said he was at peace with how his career came to a close.
"It was a great battle and the right way to finish. Instead of losing to an unknown, I lost to Jan, and I'm fine with that. The baton is hereby passed," the 35-year-old told reporters at the Paris Open last week.
Gade, who topped the world rankings from 1998 to 2001 before a brief return to number one in 2006, lost in the quarter-finals to compatriot Jan Jorgensen but stayed in Paris where he was honoured by tournament organisers at Sunday's final.
He will make one final appearance in front of his home crowd when he takes on Olympic champion Lin Dan in Copenhagen in December as a curtain-raiser for the Danish Masters tournament.
National team coach Lars Uhre believes the country's future is secure in the hands of its young players.
"Gade will be missed, but in Viktor Axelsen, Jan Jorgensen and Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, Denmark has three world-class players. I think the future looks exciting," said Uhre.
Jorgensen was placed 11th in last week's rankings with Vittinghus 17th and teenager Axelsen 31st. The current top 10 contains four Chinese players, two Japanese and one from each of Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam.
Axelsen, 18, lost the Paris Open final to Malaysia's 24th-ranked Daren Liew but he can expect to move up in the world rankings when they are updated on Thursday.
"I'm happy that already I can give the world's best a good fight," said Axelsen.
(Writing by Philip O'Connor in Stockholm, Editing by Tom Pilcher)