SOLE TARGET: Chong Wei out to mangle China stranglehold and win an Olympic bonanza in London
Lee Chong Wei
NO matter what condition he is in,Lee Chong Wei is Malaysia’s best bet for a medal in the London Olympics beginning tomorrow.
The silver medal will surely be his had Chong Wei not suffered an ankle injury during the Thomas Cup Finals in Wuhan in May and he would have a fair shot at gold.
However, the injury had taken about six weeks to heal and with just four weeks of training before the Olympics, it would be a difficult task to take on his nemesis, Lin Dan of China in a much anticipated final at Wembley Arena on Aug 5.
Lin Dan is probably in the form of his life and is more experienced and confident than he was in the Beijing Olympics four years ago.
He will be chasing an unprecedented second gold in the men’s singles in London and if he achieves it, Lin Dan will be the greatest player ever in badminton. If there is anyone who has the ability to stop him, it is Chong Wei but let’s be realistic. That notion almost faded on the day he suffered the right ankle injury in May.
Even his participation was in doubt then but Chong Wei has shown a remarkable recovery and it would be an achievement if he goes on to win a medal in London.
His path to the final has some obstacles in Simon Santoso of Indonesia (second round), a stubborn Kenichi Tago (in the last eight) and the biggest test of all, a crucial meeting against third seed Chen Long of China.
Chen Long, who has been asking questions about Chong Wei’s endurance and mental strength, won three of their last four meetings since last September. Chen Long’s strategy will be simple, that is to stretch Chong Wei to three games and force the Malaysian to run out of steam.
Even if Chong Wei survives, he could be physically drained and may struggle to match Lin Dan’s superior fitness and steely determination in the final. This has led to Chong Wei avoiding talks of beating Lin Dan for the gold as he focuses on his preparations and achieving a podium finish.
“I will respect all the opponents and everyone has qualified on merit. It will be one match at a time and I don’t even want to talk about my potential opponents,” said Chong Wei after the draw on Monday. “The thought that I might not play in the Olympics did cross my mind after the injury. I am glad to be back in training and getting better everyday.
“My preparation in Bath has been good and I am looking forward to the Olympics. I want to take it day by day.
“I will do my best to deliver for Malaysia, that is my promise to all Malaysians.” With men’s doubles Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong and mixed doubles Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying getting much tougher draws, the nation’s hope will be on Chong Wei to return with a medal.
It would be a fitting finale to see Chong Wei take on Lin Dan on Aug 5. Whatever the outcome, the Malaysian wants to return with his head held high.
• Name: Lee Chong Wei • Date of birth: Oct 21, 1982 • Place of birth: Bagan Serai, Perak • Career achievements: 42 international titles and 22 runners-up • Titles won: 2003: Malaysian Satellite; 2004: Malaysia and Taiwan Opens; 2005: Malaysia and Denmark Opens; 2006: Commonwealth Games, and Malaysia, Denmark, Swiss and Taiwan Opens, and Asian Championships; 2007: Indonesia, Japan, Philippines and French Opens; 2008: World Super Series Masters, Malaysia and Singapore, Indonesia, Swiss, Macau and Hong Kong Opens; 2009: World Super Series Masters Finals, and Malaysia Open; 2010: Commonwealth Games. World Super Series Masters Finals, Korea, Malaysia, All England, Indonesia, Japan, Macau and Hong Kong Opens; 2011 Malaysia, All England, Indonesia, India, French Opens; 2012: Korea and Malaysia Open, and Malaysia Open GP gold Olympics — 2008: Won silver in Beijing World Championships — 2005: Reached semi-finals; 2009: Reached quarter-finals; 2011: Finished second
• London expectations: Malaysia’s best bet for a medal, if not gold. Chong Wei’s ankle injury suffered in May had reduced his chances of being a gold medal contender but a medal is within reach. Lin Dan will be hard to beat and Chong Wei looks good to win his second Olympic silver.