KUNSHAN (China): Lee Chong Wei has resolved to go all out for the Olympic gold after missing out on his final chance to lift the Thomas Cup trophy.
Malaysia were beaten 2-3 by Denmark in the semi-finals last Friday, dashing his dream of holding aloft the trophy. But the 33-year-old can hold his head up high as he was the only player in the team to win all his matches here.
World No. 2 Chong Wei won all his five clashes in straight games to enhance his reputation as the player to beat at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
Chong Wei was victorious over Toby Penty of England (21-15, 21-11), Kai Schaeffer of Germany (21-19, 21-15) and Son Wan-ho of South Korea (21-18, 21-15) in Group C. In the quarter-finals, he beat Chou Tien-chen of Taiwan (21-18, 21-18) and then Victor Axelsen of Denmark (23-21, 21-18) in the semi-finals.
“Enough of playing Thomas Cup for me. I am disappointed but there’s nothing I can do. We win as a team, we also lose as a team,” said Chong Wei.
“I think we are still not strong enough to challenge for the Cup in the next two editions. We have to allow the younger players like Iskandar (Zulkarnain Zainuddin) and Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong to develop,” he added.
Chong Wei’s next assignment is the Indonesian Open in Jakarta from May 30-June 5. He will also compete in the Australian Open (June 7-12) before the gold assault in Rio.
“The Indonesian and Australian Opens are Superseries events. If I do well, I should be enough to maintain the No. 2 seeding in Rio.
“My performance is quite stable and I hope to maintain it. There’s only one Olympic gold medal and everyone wants to win it. I need to prepare well in the next two months,” said Chong Wei, who has one silver and four bronzes from seven Thomas Cup campaigns.
Chong Wei should reach the Indonesian Open final from the bottom half of the draw. World No. 1 Chen Long of China and compatriot Lin Dan, the third seed, are in the top half of the draw.
Axelsen, one of Denmark’s heroes in their first-ever Thomas Cup triumph, is in no doubt as to who is the toughest contender heading into the Olympics.
“Chong Wei is the hardest player to play against. You need to have a very high-quality performance to stay competitive on the court with him,” said the 22-year-old Axelsen, who has yet to beat the Malaysian in nine meetings.
Chong Wei has claimed three titles so far this season. Besides the Malaysian Masters in January and Malaysian Open in April, Chong Wei outplayed Lin Dan and Chen Long en route to winning the Asian Badminton Championships (ABC) in Wuhan, China, earlier this month.
India coach P. Gopichand was certainly impressed by Chong Wei’s comeback after serving an eight-month doping ban in April last year.
“He has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport all these years. If Chong Wei stays focused and fully fit, he will be difficult to beat in Rio,” said Gopichand, the 2001 All-England champion.