By LIM TEIK HUAT
PETALING JAYA: It will be another major test of world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei’s resolve when he makes the attempts to retain the Super Series Masters Finals title and to win the SEA Games individual gold medal for the first time.
Chong Wei has committed to play in the back-to-back competitions after discussions with the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) management on his return from the China Open in Shanghai on Monday.
National singles coach Rashid Sidek said that Chong Wei would travel with the badminton squad to Vientiane for the SEA Games as scheduled on Dec 8 after competing in the Masters Finals in Johor Baru.
Chong Wei had expressed concerns as the SEA Games competitions (Dec 10-17) will be held four days after the completion of the Masters Finals (Dec 2-6). Having recovered fully from a left knee injury recently, Chong Wei feared it would act up again and was in two minds over competing in Laos.
Chong Wei skipped the Opens in Denmark and French Opens last month and made a successful comeback by bagging his first Hong Kong Open title two weeks ago. But he suffered a first-round defeat by Dane Jan Jorgensen in the China Open.
“We discussed with his coach (Misbun Sidek) that he will play in the team and individual events in the SEA Games,” said Rashid.
“He will be okay as he is not carrying any injury. Besides, we will only play our first tie in the team competition on Dec 12 as we have a direct entry into the semi-finals as the top seeds.
“Moreover, the chances are that we need Chong Wei more for the final the following day when we will should be meeting Indonesia.
“It is the individual competition where we hope Chong Wei will secure his first individual SEA Games gold medal as the draw looks good for him,”
Chong Wei should have no problem clearing the first two rounds to reach the semi-finals where he will play against either Simon Santoso of Indonesia or Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand.
If Chong Wei makes the final, he will be up against Vietnamese dangerman Nguyen Tien Minh or top Indonesian Sony Dwi Kuncoro, who has a first-round match against Malaysia’s Mohd Hafiz Hashim.
Chong Wei led Malaysia to claim the team gold medal in the 2005 Manila Games but only managed to win the individual bronze.
Rashid added there is also no choice but for Chong Wei to feature in the Masters Finals to fulfil the obligations to the sponsors and also the home fans.
“We are hosting the tournament and the fans will want to see him in action in Johor Baru,” he added.Chong Wei is the top men’s singles qualifier for the Masters Finals, which feature eight players. STAR