Badminton: Relieved Lee back in winner's circle, even if out of pocket

Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia during the SEA Games on June 11, 2015.
Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia during the SEA Games on June 11, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - The paltry Canadian Open winner's cheque didn't even cover the cost of his flight back to Malaysia but that mattered little to former world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, who was just relieved to be a champion again.

Sunday's victory in Calgary followed on the back of success in New York the week before for the twice Olympic silver medallist and twice world championships runner-up.

Winning lowly Grand Prix titles would previously have carried little weight for one of the greats of the game but a humbling eight-month ban for doping, which only expired last month, has changed perspectives for the 32-year-old Malaysian.

"I won US$3,750 for the title today. It's not enough to cover for the flight, but it's not about money. It's the fantastic feeling of being a champion again," Lee was quoted as saying by the Malaysian media on Tuesday.

"Before the ban, I was the world No. 1 for many years. It didn't matter even when I lost. In US and Canada, I had to win no matter what to improve my world ranking and that was mentally challenging.

"It was my first trip to the Opens in US and Canada. I even struggled to adjust to the different time zones. I played a total of 12 matches in the last two weeks.

"It's worth it. I am glad that I pulled through after staying at home for many months without any tournaments."

Lee, whose ranking plummeted to 180th because of the ban for testing positive for dexamethasone at the world championships in August, had dropped games en route to the Calgary final, with his coach saying his charge was suffering mental fatigue.

But his sharpness returned in the final as he proved too strong for Hong Kong's Angus Ng Ka Long.

The victory should take Lee back up towards the top 60 in the rankings ahead of sterner tests next month at the Taiwan Open, which is scheduled to feature top-ranked Chen Long and Lee's long-time foe Lin Dan, a twice Olympic champion.

"I will play in the Taiwan Open although my wife is expected to give birth to our second child during that time. She has given me her blessing to go," Lee said. "I need to play in Taiwan to get valuable world ranking points. It will help me to qualify for my first two Superseries tournaments this year (in September)."