KUALA LUMPUR: His fans are growing in staggering numbers. His books are selling like hot cakes.
Despite all the fame, glory and success, world No. 1 shuttler Lee Chong Wei is still very much focused and hungry for more. He has vowed to provide even more cheer for his supporters by winning a hat-trick of titles at the All-England in Birmingham from March 6-11.
Yesterday, as expected, many fans turned up to watch Chong Wei although he was only playing in the mixed doubles with Vivian Hoo for fun in the Selangor Open at the Juara Stadium in Bukit Kiara.
Some even stood around the court to take a closer look and Chong Wei made it worth their while when he and Vivian defeated Mohd Hashim-Ho Bee Ling 21-15, 21-9 in 27 minutes in the second round.
Chong Wei, who last played in the mixed doubles with Chin Eei Hui en route to winning the 2002 Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Sarawak, said he had fun yesterday and hoped the crowd did too.
“I enjoyed it. It’s a good mix for me. I’m able to train in the morning for the All-England and, in the afternoon, still show my support for the local circuit,” said Chong Wei, who hopes his absence in the men’s singles would pave the way for the back-up shuttlers to shine.
“It won’t be easy keeping my unbeaten record in the local circuit here,” said Chong Wei, who has been the national champion for the last 10 years. “The favourites in the mixed doubles are Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying.”
When asked whether the mixed doubles was a consideration after the London Olympic Games, he flashed a smile and said: “For now, I just want to enjoy the game… I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.”
Chong Wei, thrilled with the fan turn-out, said he was motivated by them.
“I must thank all my fans for their support. They turn up to cheer me on and also support me by buying my book ‘Dare to be champion’. We have run out of the books and have gone into a second print,” said Chong Wei.
“My brother and his team are handling the sales of the books so that I can give my undivided attention to badminton. The overwhelming support of the fans certainly motivates me.”
Chong Wei said he would go all out to nail the All-England crown for the third time. He defeated Kenichi Tago of Japan for the title in 2010 and upset Lin Dan of China last year.
In Birmingham, Chong Wei, who started the year in style by winning the South Korea and Malaysia Opens, is ready to face China’s juniors en route to reaching the final. In his top half are Wang Zhengming and Du Pengyu of China, Denmark’s Peter-Gade Christensen, Sho Sasaki of Japan and South Korean Lee Hyun-il.
In the lower half are China’s three top stars Lin Dan, Chen Jin and Chen Long.