Datuk Lee Chong Wei revealed he still has a few years of badminton left in him and that he might even consider staying with the Malaysian team as a non-playing member post his retirement.
The world number one Malaysian shuttler will be eyeing for the elusive gold when he takes on the world's best at the badminton World Championships in August this year. Notably, Chong Wei had won finished with silver medals thrice at the biennial tournament (2011, 2013 and 2015). He had stumbled at the final hurdle twice against Lin Dan (2011, 2013) and against Chen Long in the last edition.
While a shot at an Olympic gold in his fifth attempt in Tokyo remains doubtful, the three-time Olympic silver medallist had reportedly hinted that he might compete at the 2020 Games if the scoring format is changed from 21x3 to 11x5. However, Chong Wei's immediate focus is on the World Championships, after which he will decide about whether or not to continue in 2018 depending on his physical condition.
Chong Wei had a decent season post the Rio Games in which he won his 44th Superseries title at the Japan Open. However, the 34-year-old suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out of the remaining major events of 2016. He competed at the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Superseries Final in Dubai only to suffer a group stage exit.
"I have been with the Malaysian badminton team for 17 years. There are a few years left in me and so I want to enjoy till I retire. Everyone is eventually interested to know my plans. Will I stay on the Malaysian team as a coach? I believe, I will be involved in the sport. I still do not have any plans though," Chong Wei said, as seen in a video shared by BWF's official Facebook page.
"I think this could be my last World Championships. I think the Olympics has taken a lot out of me. Rio Games was also my last Olympic appearance. 16 years of my career has gone playing four Olympics. I will assess my physical condition after the 2017 World Championships. If all is well, I will continue playing in 2018."
Who is Chong Wei's successor?
Chong Wei believes world number 23 and second-ranked Malaysian shuttler Iskandar Zulkarnain has the ability to replace him as the country's top Men's singles player. Notably, the 25-year-old made it to the last four stages of a Superseries tournament for the first time in his career at last year's China Open.
However, Chong Wei says Malaysia badminton will have to be patient to see results being produced gradually. While lamenting that the current generation of players do not put in their all into the spot, the legendary shuttler said it will take time to produce players like Lin Dan (China), Peter Gade (Denmark), Taufik Hidayat (Indonesia) and himself.
"When I retire Iskandar is my obvious successor as the second highest-ranked Malaysian player. He has the potential to become a top-10 player," Chong Wei added.
"But to become another Lee Chong Wei is going to be tough. That is the case not only with Malaysia but China, Indonesia and Denmark are also facing a similar situation. It's very hard to produce another Lin Dan in China, another Peter Gade in Denmark and another Taufik Hidayat in Indonesia. To search for another Lee Chong Wei will take time and patience.
"We have a lot of talented players in Malaysia. But some of them lack ambition and their courage to dream and be the best. I remember when I was young, I had set big targets, be it during training or competitions. I wanted to execute whatever my coaches said in the best possible way and do it better than everyone else."