WORLD No. 1 men’s singles shuttler Lee Chong Wei thought his first round exit in the Indian Open would be met with sympathy.
But it also drew flak.
But his excuse has only led to many unanswered questions. Where was the team chaperone? Why did he eat outside food in the first place?
Usually, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) have a chaperone to look after their players. Unfortunately, the team to India was not accompanied by a team manager.
It seems that none of the state badminton presidents was available for the “holiday” trip.
There would have been a long queue for the team manager’s post if the destination had been somewhere in Europe.
Left without much choice, the BAM felt that national coaches Teh Seu Bok and Rosman Razak would be able to juggle their coaching duties with managing and ensuring that the players have enough rest and eat proper meals.
Obviously, the duo had their plates full, leading to this unfortunate event.
Or was it simply a case of the duo not being authoritative enough in getting their message across to the players.
It has been ages since the BAM planned to hire a full-time manager to manage the players.
The idea was to have a professional to look into every aspect of the athletes’ preparation during tournaments, including ensuring proper meal intake at the proper time.
But all that has only been empty talk.
The BAM, however, should not take all the blame.
After all, the 27-year-old Chong Wei is not a rookie player.
As a seasoned traveller and professional player he should know better than to eat outside food, especially so in India.
And hasn’t this mantra been drummed into the heads of the elite and back-up athletes by the sports scientists from the National Sports Institute (NSI)? The Indian Open may have been just a Grand Prix gold tournament and Chong Wei may have felt obliged to go because of his sponsors.
But still, it is a responsibility of the player — especially one as esteemed as Chong Wei — to take nothing for granted.
One just hopes that the food poisoning episode is not a mere excuse to explain the rare first round defeat after his sensational win over China’s Lin Dan in the Swiss Open final just a week earlier.
One thing is for sure — a lesson has been learnt the painful way.
Chong Wei will have to be extremely careful when he makes his way to the same place in August in a bid to become the country’s first world champion.
BAM too will have to leave no stones unturned in the team’s preparation for the World Championships from Aug 6-10. And that, for now, is enough for them to chew on.