GUANGZHOU: World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei is down but not out. And he has vowed to return for another tilt at the World Badminton Championships in Copenhagen next year.
On Sunday, Chong Wei’s bid to be Malaysia’s first world champion was crushed when he retired at 21-16, 13-21, 20-17 due to cramps in the men’s singles final against Lin Dan of China.
It was Lin Dan’s fifth title – making him the most successful player in the world series.
Chong Wei, who spent two hours in the hospital to recover from the cramps, was heartbroken.
“I tried my best but somehow I always miss out on a opportunity to win the world title. I am sad and I just want to say sorry again,” said Chong Wei, who failed to live up to his No. 1 seeding for the fifth time in the championships.
“I called my wife (Wong Mew Choo) when I was in hospital. She was worried and wanted to take the next flight to Guangzhou but I told her not to worry. I asked her to stay back and take care of our sick baby Kingston. I will be back on Monday (yesterday). She encouraged me to stay strong.
“It may not have ended well for me but I am not giving up. I will regain my strength and spirit – to go for another one (World Championships in Copenhagen next year),” added Chong Wei.
The 30-year-old, however, was full of praise for Lin Dan.
“Lin Dan played well. He did not go out (for competition) for one year but still can become a world champion. He is truly an extraordinary player,” said Chong Wei.
Chong Wei admitted that he struggled to find his footing in the second game when the organiser switched off the air-conditioner inside the Tianhe Gymnasium.
“I came well-prepared. I knew Lin Dan would go all out, especially when China had only won one title and lost two important ones before the final,” he said.
Before the Chong Wei-Lin Dan showdown, China had won the women’s doubles through Wang Xioli-Yu Yang but lost both the women’s singles (Li Xuerui) and mixed doubles (Xu Chen-Ma Jin) finals. If Lin Dan had lost, it would have been China’s worst-ever performances since 1993.
“I did well to win the opener but the second game was a disaster for me. It was very hot in the stadium. After just two points, I knew the air-conditioner was shut down. I had problems with the draught, as the shots that I had anticipated to be out was in.
“Whether the organiser purposely switched it off or not, I don’t know. It is all in the past now.”
Chong Wei added that it was unfortunate that he could not continue playing due to the cramps.
“I think I suffered the cramps due to a number of reasons. Just a day earlier (in the semi-finals), Du Pengyu pushed my physical endurance to the limit. Then, the heat in the stadium took its toll on me,” he said.
“I went into the World Championships to bring honour to the country, the BAM (Badminton Association of Malaysia) and my team-mates. It is unfortunate that I could not achieve my dream of becoming a world champion. There will be another opportunity,” added Chong Wei.
On his next participation in the US$1mil (RM3.24mil) Indian Badminton League (IBL), which begins on Sunday, Chong Wei said: “I not quite sure yet. I will go back home and assess my condition. The league is important for my club and I want to be in my best form.”