London 2012: Lee Chong Wei takes on ghost of Wembley

As the London 2012 Olympians stepped foot into the rustic charms of Wembley Arena to train ahead of the opening day on Saturday, top seed Lee Chong Wei had more than just physical warm-up on his agenda at the historical facility.

Wembley Arena was the venue of the 2011 World Championships and top seed Lee Chong Wei was a point away from capturing the elusive world title – what more with a win over his long-time nemesis Lin Dan.

All that changed in an instant and the scene of Lin Dan ripping his shirt off, celebrating as if there was no tomorrow, is still fresh in the mind of Lee Chong Wei.

“That was a stunning defeat as I was almost there but all of a sudden the title vanished right before my eyes,” said Chong Wei.

“I made crucial mistakes but Lin Dan dared gamble and it paid off for him. That defeat still lingers in my mind and it has strengthened my resolve to win the gold medal at the Olympics.

“It will be tough and we cannot compare the Olympics to any Superseries events, as it’s in a totally different league.”

The two may be each others nemesis on the badminton court, but off it Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei are the best of friends, as evident when they met outside their hotel at Wembley Plaza on the eve of the Olympics.

They posed for pictures and had a ten-minute conversation, both looking confidently into each other’s eyes.

The topic of the conversation was not badminton. Lin Dan was showing Chong Wei his latest watch that left the Malaysian in awe.

“It is a nice watch and it is also very expensive. We talked about our passion for watches and never did we touch on the competition,” said Chong Wei.

“We do not discuss badminton and he did not ask about my recovery. It’s a question of mutual respect I suppose.”

On the condition of the venue, the Wembley Arena, Chong Wei had this to say: “It is a bit humid in the hall as the air conditioners are not fully switched on as yet. And with work still ongoing, the doors are left open and it’s not possible to see the effect of the draught just yet.

“I have had three training sessions at the venue and am told the weather generally will be much cooler over the weekend.

“Everything is a factor to be considered in our quest for gold. It is something that all players will be wary of as the weather affects the flight of the shuttle as well and if not addressed properly it could derail the quest for glory.”

Having stepped on to the court almost six weeks ago, Chong Wei has been busy getting his strokes back under the watchful eyes of his coaches Tey Seu Bock and Rashid Sidek.

Hours were spent with sparring partners both at the national training centre at Juara Stadium in Kuala Lumpur as well as at Bath University in England.

And when the draw was conducted at the Main Press Centre in London, Chong Wei was still focusing on his own game, unperturbed by the fact that China’s Chen Long is in his half of the draw and could be his likely semi-final opponent.

“To be a true champion, one has to take on and defeat the best. So why should I think differently just because these are the Olympics?” said Chong Wei when asked about his likely semi-final clash with Chen Long.

“All players here dream about winning the gold, even Lin Dan who has won (already) wants to win it again.

“It all boils down to form on that day, how you play and how much desire you show on the court is what really matters.

“And not forgetting the element of luck which deserted me the last time I played on these courts.”

 

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