KUALA LUMPUR: All the talk about Lee Chong Wei making a comeback may not happen after all, and it is time for Malaysians to come together and show support for him.
Yesterday, BAM confirmed that the the 37-year-old, who was diagnosed with nose cancer last July, will not make the trip to Nanning, China, for the Sudirman Cup on May 19-26.
What's more alarming is that the three-time Olympic silver medallist has not been registered for any Badminton World Federation (BWF) tournaments after May.
This is a big blow and a real concern for the former World No 1, who must make a comeback by Aug 14, or lose the protected ranking of World No 3 (77,383 points) which was designated to him by the world body last August.
Chong Wei, who wants to make a fifth Olympic appearance in Tokyo next year, is currently ranked World No 73 on 22,135 points.
As the one-year Olympic qualifying period comes into effect in May, Chong Wei will not only have fewer tournaments to choose from but he must also be ready to face stern challenges from top players, as the protected ranking (which will only be activated when Chong Wei plays in his first BWF match) does not offer any seeding.
And since Chong Wei is out of the New Zealand Open (Apr 30-May 5) and Sudirman Cup, it would have been ideal for him to make a comeback at the Australian Open on June 4-9.
However, BAM revealed that they have not registered him for the tournament, which means the next competition that offers Olympic ranking points is the Canada Open on July 2-7.
At the end of the qualifying period next year, BWF will only consider the best 10 results from the BWF World Tour, and a maximum representation of two players will only be granted to countries that have two players ranked within the top 16 bracket.
“Chong Wei has consulted his doctor, and has been advised to take it easy. Medically, he should not play in competitions yet, this was communicated to us by Chong Wei,” said BAM secretary general, Datuk Ng Chin Chai, after chairing a Coaching and Training Committee (C&T) meeting.
“We have also not registered him for any tournament, because for now his health is more important than badminton. We want to let Chong Wei make his own decision following his doctor's advice.
“If he can come back before August, all is well and good, but if he cannot, BAM will always stand by him because even for us, his health comes first,” Chin Chai added.
Apart from the Canada Open, Chong Wei, who last played in the semi-finals of the Indonesia Open last July, can also make a comeback at the US Open (Jul 9-14), Indonesia Open (Jul 16-21), Russian Open (Jul 16-21), Japan Open (Jul 23-28), Thailand Open (Jul 30-Aug 4), Hyderabad Open (Aug 6-11) and the Akita Masters (Aug 13-18), all of which are tournaments that offer Olympic ranking points.
Meanwhile, Chin Chai played down any chances of a fairy tale outing for Malaysia at the Sudirman Cup next month, describing it as a tournament that offers exposure more than anything else.
“We have to be realistic, it is going to be very hard to win the Sudirman Cup. We do not have any specific targets but it's more for the players to give their best.
“Our team will be a mixed team that consist both young and senior players,” said Chin Chai, who added that there is no issue with professional players crying foul for being left out, as the Sudirman Cup does not offer a lot of ranking points, as far as Olympic qualifying is concerned.
Men's singles — Lee Zii Jia, Cheam June Wei, Soong Joo Ven,
Women's singles — Goh Jin Wei, Soniia Cheah, Lee Ying Ying,
Men's doubles — Aaron Chia, Soh Wooi Yik, Ong Yew Sin, Teo Ee Yi, Nur Izzuddin Rumsani,
Women's doubles — Chow Mei Kuan, Lee Meng Yean, Vivian Hoo, Yap Cheng Wen,
Mixed doubles — Goh Soon Huat, Tan Kian Meng, Chen Tang Jie, Shevon Lai, Lai Pei Jing.