Badminton Life

Lee Hoping to Inspire Next Generation of Malaysian Singles Players

Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei is hoping a good run at the Olympics next month will help inspire youngsters in his country to follow in his footsteps.

Lee is worried about the lack of quality successors in the men's singles discipline in Malaysia.

The world number two is among the favourites for gold at the Beijing Games. And he is convinced that a medal at the Olympics will help prompt budding singles players in Malaysia to take up the game.

He said an added incentive is the RM1 million the Malaysian government will award to any athlete who brings home a gold medal from Beijing.

"We need more talented men's singles players for the future. I am sure this will see more taking a serious approach to become the world's best," Lee said in The Star.

While Lee is among the top-ranked players in the world, the next highest Malaysian is 15th-ranked Wong Choong Hann, who is retiring after the Olympics.

Of the younger crop, players such as Tan Chun Seang, Chong Wei Feng and Mohd Arif Abdul Latif have yet to show true potential, though they have time on their side.

Lee is naturally excited at the fact that he has the potential to become a millionaire if he can strike gold at the Olympics.

Apart from that he will be set for life with gold medalists promised RM 5,000 a month for the rest of their lives. In addition, the Badminton Association of Malaysia will award RM 200,000.

So, indeed the incentives are huge. However, Lee also wants to leave a legacy that would benefit the future of Malaysian badminton.

"This is a great boost and motivation for the national athletes," he said. "It will be another driving factor for athletes to raise their standard to a higher level. Of course, it will be good to win all that money. But I want to look beyond that."

Malaysia has only had one Olympic medalist in the men's singles and that was Rashid Sidek, who won a bronze at the Atlanta Games in 1996.

Lee is seen as Malaysia's best hope in Beijing, where he will face tough opposition from the home country's world number one Lin Dan, Bao Chunlai and Chen Jin.

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