By RAJES PAUL
KUALA LUMPUR: It looks as though Lee Chong Wei has no choice but to play in the Laos SEA Games next month.
This is because the draws for the team and individual events of the badminton competitions have been made and there can be no substitution.
If Chong Wei opts out of the team, Malaysia are left with Mohd Hafiz Hashim to challenge for the men’s singles individual. And they will have no singles options for the team event with Kuan Beng Hong and Liew Daren in the line-up.
Chong Wei had said after winning the Hong Kong Open title on Sunday that he hoped to get approval from coach Misbun Sidek and the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) to skip the Games, beginning on Dec 9.
He felt that he would not be able to sustain his form in four back-to-back tournaments. He is down to compete in the China Open, which begins in Shanghai tomorrow and the Super Series Masters Finals scheduled for Dec 2-6 in Johor Baru.
Chong Wei is the defending champion in the Masters Finals and it will be a shame if he does not feature in the premier world event on home ground. Besides, the Masters Finals offers lucrative prize money with the total amounting to US$500,000.
The BAM general manager, Kenny Goh, said: “We did not hear about any of this (Chong Wei’s wish to skip the SEA Games) at our recent coaching and training committee meeting.
“Now that this matter has surfaced, we will wait for Chong Wei and Misbun to return from Shanghai and look into it.”
The Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary general, Datuk Sieh Kok Chi, said that an athlete could withdraw if the case was supported by a doctor’s letter.
“We can submit this to the organisers and it is their prerogative to accept or reject it. On top of that, it also depends on the rules of the sports’ governing body.”
A Badminton Asia Confederation (BAC) official, who confirmed that the individual draw had been released yesterday, said that their rules prevented substitutions after a draw had been made.
Chong Wei, however, could be smiling after having a look at the individual draw.
In the 16-man singles draw, Chong Wei is the top seed and he will take on Vietnamese Nguyen Hoang Hai in the opening round. In the same half are Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana and Indonesian Simon Santoso, who will play each other in the opening round.
The other half of the draw has second seed Nguyen Tien Minh of Vietnam with Indonesian Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Hafiz up against each other in the opening round.
Chong Wei has yet to win a SEA Games individual gold medal. He was in the team who emerged as champions in the 2005 edition in Manila.