Jul 25, 2016

    Lee's last chance to win badminton gold


    A NATION'S hopes of Olympic glory can be a burden for the toughest of athletes but few can know of the pressure on badminton's world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei.

    The loser of successive gold medal duels in London and Beijing, he will bid to banish eight years of heartbreak at the Rio Games and end Malaysia's long wait for an Olympic champion.

    China's Lin Dan trounced Lee in the Beijing final and edged him in London.

    "(Gold) is not only my dream but also the dream of all Malaysians," he told Malaysian media earlier this month.

    "I have to make the best preparation as this is my last Olympic Games."

    At Rio, the microscope will be trained hard on Lee whose reputation was stained after he failed a drug test at the 2014 world championships.

    However, the Badminton World Federation was convinced of his claim that he had taken a banned substance inadvertently.

    Lee's ranking plummeted outside the top 100 while sidelined but he has fought back over the past year.

    He reclaimed the No. 1 spot from Chinese world champion Chen Long with victory at the Indonesian Open in June.

    His impressive return has coincided with a partnership with team coach and Indonesian former world champion Hendrawan.

    Indonesia and Malaysia are mortal enemies on the badminton court so Hendrawan's appointment by the team's Danish technical director Morten Frost raised eyebrows.

    Hendrawan and the Badminton Association of Malaysia have kept Lee sheltered from the Games hype and also been cagey about his fitness after he missed tournaments in Australia and Taiwan last month due to a buttock injury.

    But Lee has said he will be front and centre at Rio as Malaysia's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony. From there, he has "nowhere to hide", Hendrawan said.

    "At the Olympics, it is not about the physical or technical (aspect) any more. It's about pressure and how to lessen it."