PETALING JAYA: Top Malaysian singles player Lee Chong Wei has a good reason for skipping the limelight yesterday despite being named as the four Malaysians chosen to carry the Olympic Torch Relay when it passes through Malaysia on April 21.
The others named were Nicol David (squash), Ras Adiba Radzi (former newscaster) and Datin Paduka Sharifah Maszlina Syed Abdul Kadir (the first woman to conquer the North and South Poles).
Chong Wei would rather focus on his preparations for next month’s Super Series meets in Europe, where he intends to collect ranking points to at least maintain his status as the world No. 2.
Chong Wei has been seeded second for both the All-England, starting next week, and also Swiss Open, which will be held from March 11-16.
“I would have love to attend the function but I felt it was more important for me to be together with my team-mates in a team-building camp in Ipoh.
“The camp was a chance for me to brush up a bit on training after returning from the Thomas Cup qualifiers in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday,” said Chong Wei, who also expressed his delight at being given the honour of carrying the torch for the first time.
“I’m very happy to be part of this as it is adds to my experience of representing Malaysia in the Olympics.”
Chong Wei and the top doubles top pair of Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong will be Malaysia’s best hopes of a first-ever Olympic gold medallist in Beijing in August.
But first Chong Wei, who is leaving for England today, is hoping to live up to his billing as the number two seed in the All-England.
The Penang-born shuttler’s best outing in the All-England was when he reached the semi-finals in 2004 and 2005. Chong Wei bowed out in the quarter-finals last year after going down to Chen Yu of China.
Chong Wei plays KLRC shuttler and compatriot Sairul Amar Ayub in the first round and, if he wins, should face England’s Andrew Smith next.
But the world No. 2 has tricky hurdles to clear after that as he is slated to meet Indonesia’s Taufik Hidayat in the quarter-finals.
Taufik, the current Olympic champion, has never won the All-England title and that is why Chong Wei is wary of being over-confident although he is the favourite based on current form.
“I’m taking a cautious approach and I want to take each match as it comes.
“I hope to achieve my best results here but it won’t be plain sailing, given the opponents expected to line up against me,” added Chong Wei, who also can expect to face either fourth seed Chen Jin of China or Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia in the last four.
Also leaving early for England today is Kien Keat-Boon Heong and the singles and doubles coaches – Misbun Sidek and Rexy Mainaky – respectively.