World number one Lee pumped up for Asian Games

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Lee Chong Wei finds himself in the curious position of being badminton's world No. 1 and yet not favourite to win gold at the Asian Games.

Updated: November 08, 2010 11:52 IST
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Malaysian star shuttler Lee Chong Wei finds himself in the curious position of being badminton's world number one and yet not favourite to win gold at the Asian Games that start this week.

That tag goes to the charismatic Lin Dan, touted by many as the best player ever but whose limited appearances in this year's Super Series means he is down in the world rankings.

The Chinese, who at 27 is a year younger than Lee, is thought to be desperate to win in front of an adoring home crowd.

And yet as Lee proved in September at the Japan Open, where he beat his arch-rival and Olympic champion to win the title, the Malaysian is more than capable of playing the party pooper in Guangzhou.

The light-footed Lee, one of Malaysia's few truly world-class performers in any sport, appears resigned to facing his nemesis.

"I will probably meet Lin Dan again at the Asian Games and the win in Tokyo has given me a lot of confidence. I hope to work even harder to face the challenges against him again," he told Malaysia's Star newspaper recently.

Lin and Lee could hardly be more different, however.

While the Chinese superstar can be exuberant in victory but surly in defeat, Lee is a more reserved character who has occasionally appeared to feel the burden of expectation at home weighing him down.

He once said in an interview that the mental side was the weakest part of his game.

And although he has dozens of titles to his name, he has come up short in the major tournaments, crashing to eventual champion, Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, in the Asian Games semis four years ago in Doha.

He then lost heavily to Lin in the final at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and has never won the world championship.

Lee's gliding movement and precision was not enough as he crashed out at the worlds in Paris in August at the quarter-finals stage to Indonesian veteran Hidayat.

Malaysian national coach Misbun Sidek had said beforehand that his player "feels uneasy thinking about the world championships" and "needs to ease up a little".

Lee has struggled with a back injury he sustained in Paris that one Malaysian badminton official suggested at one stage might stop the shuttler making it to Guangzhou and still requires treatment.

But he was again in devastating form at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, where he strolled to the gold medal against substandard opposition to set him up nicely for the Asian Games.

Raphael Sachetat, chief editor of the badzine website (, told AFP: "Lee Chong Wei can beat Lin Dan on a day when Lin Dan has not set his mind on the gold medal, like at the Japan Open.

"It was clearly not top of his list, but it will be very very difficult to beat Lin Dan in China."

Sachetat said Lee needed to handle expectations back in Malaysia.

"His trouble is the pressure at big events," he said. "There is big pressure from the Malaysian media and coaches.

"He deserves to be number one because he's shown he's consistent, but in the big events, Lin Dan has more chance of winning."

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