In the last 10 years, Malaysia’s badminton superstar and former world no.1, Lee Chong Wei came to play at the SouthEast Asian Games for the first time. Badminton is one of the disciplines at the 28th SEA Games, currently underway at Singapore. Since his return from the eight-month doping ban, global badminton community is keeping a close watch on Lee’s matches. He began his second stint with the prestigious team championship tournament, Sudirman Cup held at the Chinese city of Dongguan last month. Malaysia lost to Korea in the quarterfinals after beating them at Group-stage. But Lee Chong Wei emerged winner in all his matches in the competition. It was the same story at SEA Games in the men’s team championship, where Lee won both his matches and while his team crossed the first hurdle, they fell to Indonesia in the team-semifinals.
At SEA Games in Singapore, Malaysia’s badminton performance was like reenacting the scenario of their passage in the Sudirman Cup in China last month. Coming back to badminton court after the doping ban was lifted; Lee Chong Wei won both his matches, though Malaysia lost to Korea in the quarterfinals of the Sudirman Cup. At Singapore, the Malaysian team won their first match against Cambodia but fell to Indonesia at the next hurdle. Against Cambodia, the Malaysian men’s team thrashed their opponent 3-0. They began with Chong Wei Feng taking out Cambodia’s Tep Chanmara 21-7, 21-11. Then the great Lee Chong Wei got a chance to entertain the crowd with some tricks and amazing flicks on his way to victory over Cheng Phor Rom 21-10, 21-5 in the second tie. The superstar took merely 13 minutes on court as Cheng Phor couldn’t respond to Lee’s magical display. Malaysians completed the 3-0 victory against Cambodia, when their men’s pair of Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong defeated Teav Yong Vannak/Nguon Kanora 21-8, 21-11.
In the quarterfinals on June 10, the Malaysians were not so lucky against Indonesia despite beginning with a bang. In the first tie, Chong Wei Feng defeated the talented Jonatan Christie Jonathan 21-18, 13-21, 21-15 but Indonesia levelled the scores to 1-1, when their doubles pair of Ricky Karandasuwardi/Angga Pratama beat Tan Wee Kiong/Goh V Shem 17-21, 21-15, 17-21. In the third tie, Lee Chong Wei restored the lead to 2-1, when he thrashed Firman Abdul Kholik 21-18, 21-10. Indonesia fought back and made it 2-2, when their second doubles pair Kevin Sanjaya/Marcus Fernaldi defeated Malaysia’s Mak Hee Chun/Teo Kok Siang 21-10, 21-13. Now everything rested on the last singles match between Malaysia’s Muhammad Ariff Ab Latif and Indonesia’s Ihsan Maulana. Ariff Ab Latif fought hard but still lost 12-21, 20-22 and Indonesia entered the final.
The 32-year-old Lee remained confined to the team event and decided against participating in the individual category. The two-time Olympic runner-up and currently ranked 46th in the world, Lee is trying to build his form and fitness ahead of the Jakarta world championships in August. After his match, he expressed hopes of another participation in the SEA Games in 2-years’ time, when in 2017, when Malaysians will be the host.