Malaysian shuttler Lee Chong Wei has been challenged by the country’s Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to find his successor before he retires.
Chong Wei recently said that he was planning to retire after the 2017 Southeast Asian Games and added that he has accepted Khairy’s challenge.
However, the world number four admitted that he has been disappointed with the lack of progress shown by Malaysia’s men’s singles players as they have struggled to have an impact this year, while he has won five titles and reached the final of the World Championships in Jakarta in August since returning from an eight-month doping ban in May.
“I accept the Minister’s challenge in good faith … although it puts a lot of pressure on me,” Chong Wei told The Star. “Seriously, I have to admit that I am disappointed with the progress of our men’s singles players. There is a big gap between them and me.”
With younger players from other countries, like Japan’s Kento Momota and Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, already having made a name for themselves, Chong Wei plans to talk to and advise Malaysia’s younger shuttlers on how they can improve their game.
“I’m not a coach yet and I cannot go and do the job of other coaches. What I can do now is to spend more time to talk, advise and inspire our younger players,” he said.
“I have my mission to win a gold medal at the next Olympic Games (in Rio de Janeiro), but I will do my part to speak to our players and push them.
“There are a few with potential, but they must work harder to narrow the gap.”
Chong Wei also pointed out that many of the younger players need to be a lot more disciplined if they are to beat the top shuttlers and win titles on a consistent basis.
“Sometimes, I see younger players give excuses. Some of them have late nights and have no energy left during training. Some even find ways to skip training,” he said. “This has to stop if they want to be like me or the other legends … like Peter, Taufik and Lin Dan.”
The 33-year-old added that the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) should invest more time and faith in the women’s singles shuttlers and men’s doubles shuttlers.
“There may be no stars in men’s singles, but we can focus on other events … like women’s singles,” he said. “Goh Jin Wei is a future star in women’s singles, but we should not put undue pressure on her. She is only 15 … a great talent that can be groomed.
“Our men’s doubles seems to be greatly affected … this an area that BAM should seriously look into.”