He participated in the 2000 Asian Junior Championships and won both the team and boys’ singles event. He was also a part of the winning team in the 2000 World Junior Championships.
Playing as a member of China’s 2002 Thomas Cup squad, he helped his team defeat Sweden, Denmark, and Korea to reach the semifinals. But he could not play in the crucial semifinal which his team ultimately lost.
He made his inaugural debut in the World Championships in Birmingham, England in 2003. He won the first two rounds against Per-Henrik Croona and Przemysław Wacha respectively, but was beaten by Xia in the third round match.
The year 2004 was a good one for him. He was ranked No. 1 by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) for the first time in February. He won the Swiss Open and also the All England Open. He also reached the semifinal of the Japan Open the same year.
His phenomenal success came to a brief halt in late 2004. He lost in the quarterfinals of the Malaysian Open and was ousted early on from the Olympic Games.
He bounced back in 2005 and retained his world No. 1 ranking. Back to his old form, he won the German and Hong Kong Open titles, Japan Open, China Masters, and World Cup tournaments. In spite of all his successes, he was unable to retain his All England title and lost to Chen Hong.
In 2006, he won six individual titles including the All England Open, Chinese Taipei Open, Macau Open, Hong Kong Open, and Japan Open. He also played in the German Open and the China Open, though in both cases he failed to win the title.
He again emerged the winner in the All England championship and was able to clinch the German Open title in 2007. He was a part of the team that played the Sudirman Cup and defeated Indonesia 3-0 to win the tournament. He also became the China Masters champion for 2007.
The 2008 season began with a controversial match in which Lin had a dispute with South Korea’s coach in the final of the Korea Open which he ultimately lost. However ,the year proved to be an eventful one for him as he won the gold in the men’s singles in the Olympic Games.
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He was again a part of the team that played in the Sudirman Cup 2009 and guided China to a 5-0 win against England. The Chinese team was in top form and effortlessly won the Cup for the third time in a row.
In 2010, following his first ever Asian Games gold medal, he became the first player to win all of the present major titles available to Asians in badminton, both individual and national team.
After 2010 he began suffering problems because of a waist injury. In spite of this, he continued playing well. He participated in the 2012 summer Olympics and went on to clinch the gold medal in the men’s singles, thus becoming the first men's singles player to retain the Olympic title.
His ranking and performance suffered a lot due to his injuries and he could make only one appearance in 2013—at the Badminton Asia Championships. However, he could not play all the games because of his nagging health problems and withdrew from the championship after reaching the third round.
He is a two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion, and the first and only player to win all nine major titles in the badminton world: Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup, Thomas Cup, Sudirman Cup, Super Series Masters Finals, All England Open, Asian Games, and Asian Championships.