Former Olympians Xia, Zhang to coach China badminton

Li Yongbo brought unprecedented success to China badminton during his 24 years as national coach

China have turned to former Olympians Xia Xuanze and Zhang Jun as national badminton coaches to replace long-standing boss Li Yongbo as they battle to revive their dominance in the sport.

Xia, a men's singles bronze medallist at the 2000 Olympics, and Zhang, a two-time mixed doubles Olympic champion, will take charge of singles and doubles respectively, official media said.

Hardman Li brought unprecedented success during his 24 years in charge, but fans have been calling for new leadership after China won only two badminton gold medals at last year's Olympics.

Xia and Zhang's top priority will be preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, a report on the Chinese Olympic committee's website said.

"They are in the prime of their lives, have a strong sense of professionalism and are devoted to the development of the national badminton," the report said, describing the coaches.

Li was reassigned along with other coaching staff to an advisory panel with the Chinese Olympic Committee, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.

"After serving so many years in the post, I feel tired... and I've realised it is time to step back," Li told Tengxun Sport earlier this month.

During his long tenure, China rose to dominate badminton, winning 18 Olympic gold medals including a stunning sweep of all five titles at London 2012.

But "Li's progressive winner-take-all mindset and outspoken personality have seen him in hot water constantly throughout his career," China Daily said earlier this month.

Chinese badminton has hit a fallow period, with former champions including Fu Haifeng and Lin Dan retiring or set to retire.

Last month, the team suffered their worst outing in two decades at the prestigious All-England Open, winning only the mixed doubles through Lu Kai and Juang Yaqiong.