Can Lee Chong Wei savour his 1st Olympic gold in Rio?
Kuala Lumpur, June 20 (IANS) With slightly over one month away from the Rio Olympic Games, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia is surely an odds-on bet for the men's singles badminton crown which has been eluding him so far.
Being a veteran at the age of 33, Chong Wei enjoys an enviable collection of 64 titles and 30 silvers, with an itchy heart for the glaring missing golds in either the Olympic Games or the World Championships, reports Xinhua.
Back again to the top of the latest World ranking on June 16, Chong Wei hopes to save the best for the last by winning the men's singles in Rio, as he himself is again running towards the peak of his form while his chief rivals are suffering ups and downs nowadays.
"The Rio Games might be my last Olympic Games, and I will try my best to win the gold medal," said Chong Wei, born in October 21, 1982, after winning his 6th and record-equalling Indonesian Open title in early June.
Since the 2015 Sudirman Cup, his first tournament after serving a backdated eight-month suspension for doping violation, he took back-to-back titles by winning the US Open and Canada Open, settled for the second at the World Championships, won the French Open, and even reaped his first ever China Open title, all in 2015, thus making him the first ever men's singles shuttler to have won all Superseries titles.
Chong Wei ended the year 2015 with three back-to-back titles, entered the 2016 by winning his fifth Malaysian Masters title in January, his 11th Malaysian Open title in April, and his second Asian Championships title in April, won all his matches during the Thomas Cup in May.
In June this year, he also won his 6th and record equalling Indonesian Open title, and becomes the first non-Indonesian to win the title for six times.
During his pinnacle of career finals, Lee made the Olympic men's singles final twice, but was defeated twice by China's Lin Dan in the 2008 Bejing and 2012 London Games. For the World Championships, Lee entered the men's singles final three times, but ended up as runner-up every time, first to Lin Dan in 2013, then to Chen Long, also of China, in 2014 and 2015.
The past two years witnessed a confident Lee in peak form, as he has met Chen four times, and won three times in succession in the China Open, the Malaysia Open and the Asian Championships.
However, Lin might still be the Malaysian's most agonising rival en route to his hopeful glory moment in Rio. After beating Chong Wei twice in Beijing and London Games, Lin only met the Malaysian once in any major tournaments ever since, winning 16-21, 21-13 and 21-17 in the final of the 2013 World Championships.
For Chong Wei, Rio de Janeiro will be either a joyful celebration or sad farewell.