KUALA LUMPUR: National number one shuttler Lee Chong Wei wants to make it clear that the country comes first in his pursuit for badminton excellence on the international stage.
After letting the country down at the World Championships just a fortnight before the 50th anniversary of Merdeka, Chong Wei is determined to make up for the disappointment.
At the championships at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil, there were high hopes on Chong Wei ending the country's 30-year title drought in the series. But he crashed to a tame third-round defeat by Indonesian Sony Dwi Kuncoro.
“I have never competed in a tournament with the intention to lose a match. I have always fought for my country,” said Chong Wei.
“I was surprised to read a report on the BAM (Badminton Association of Malaysia) advising players to stay clean and not getting involved with bookies. I do not mix with these kind of people (the bookies).”
Legal UK-based internet betting on the championship was available but the BAM president, Datuk Nadzmi Mohd Salleh, said that he was not aware of it. Nadzmi added that he did not think the players were involved in match-fixing but warned that stern actions would be taken against those involved with bookies.
Malaysian shuttlers generally performed poorly in the championships and the best performers were veterans Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah, who won the bronze in the men's doubles.
“I work hard during training. God knows my sincerity in giving my best for badminton,” added Chong Wei.
The world number three admitted that his performance against Sony and the way he handled the defeat disappointed many.
“I made a mistake by talking about the problems I had with the chief coach (Yap Kim Hock) after losing to Sony,” said Chong Wei.
“I was very disappointed with the defeat and I blurted out many things in the heat of the moment. The timing was not right. But I am glad that the BAM are now aware of the problems. I am still waiting for the matter to be solved.
“When I win, everyone is happy. But all kind of things are said when I lose. Some are very hurtful. But I have learnt to accept these as part and parcel of being the top player in the country.”
Chong Wei added that there was no point dwelling on the painful experience and he was ready to move forward.
“I have resumed training but for the first few days, I was mentally down. My performances in the world championships showed that I am still not good yet,” he said.
“My coach (Misbun Sidek) has made a pledge to help take me to the top again. I believe a player will only bounce back stronger after going through a painful defeat. I will be ready for the next tournament, the Japan Open (Sept 11-16).”