Lee's last shot on world stage

Shuttler comes to terms with Olympic silver, to play at World C'ships before his retirement

RIO DE JANEIRO • Lee Chong Wei might be disappointed with bagging only a silver at the Rio Games, but the Malaysian badminton star has no plans to quit the sport yet.

According to Bernama, the world No. 1 will take a shot at winning the world title next year, before leaving the international stage.

The 33-year-old has reached the final at the World Championships four times - in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 - but has never clinched it.

He was stripped of his runner-up position in 2014 in Copenhagen, following a doping violation for which he was banned for eight months.

"One more year to go before the final stop, as other Malaysian shuttlers must fill in the gap," Lee said after he lost 18-21, 18-21 to China's Chen Long in the men's singles final in Rio.

It was his Olympic farewell and also ended Malaysians' dream of winning a first-ever gold medal, as the badminton men's doubles and mixed doubles pairs also lost their respective finals.

Lee said he had expected to face his nemesis, China's Lin Dan, in the final in Rio. But he admitted that world No. 2 Chen was simply the better player on the day.

"I made mistakes at the net and it proved fatal and Chen Long was in unbeatable form," said Lee.

"I'm crushed. I gave my all but Chen Long was just too good."

"I have to accept that my Olympic career ends with silver," said the three-time silver medallist after his fourth Olympics.

Many believe that Lee will still be fit enough to win that elusive Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2020, especially after China's coach Li Yongbo proclaimed that "Lee Chong Wei was excellent ( in the Rio final), but unfortunate".

Li went on to tell Malaysia's Sin Chew daily: "If he is on my team, I would be very proud too. Of course, if he is my player, he may have already been world champion.

"Chen Long winning the final was in large part because of Lin Dan sapping Chong Wei's energy in three sets (in the semi-final). This is a collective effort, China had two elite athletes to stop Chong Wei."

But Lee dismissed the thought of him lasting till 2020 in the highly competitive international field, observed the Malay Mail.

"The Tokyo Olympics is too far away. I need to make way for the younger players," he said.

"It's hard to leave my wife (Wong Mew Choo) and children (Kingston and Terrence) when I go to tournaments. I left them for nearly a month to prepare for Rio and have won another medal. I'm sorry it wasn't gold.

"The good thing now is I can rest and take it easy for a short while."

Asked if he really thought he could win a world crown before retiring, he replied: "I'll do my best."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2016, with the headline 'Lee's last shot on world stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe