KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian badminton fans can jump for joy as world No. 1 men's singles shuttler Lee Chong Wei has decided to play on until the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Three factors have helped him arrive at this decision - advice from Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, the fact that he is still winning tournaments, and there is no other shuttler ready to assume the mantle.
"Our Sports Minister is very supportive of me and has asked me to persevere until the 2016 Olympic Games. I digested what he said and I gave him my word to keep on playing," said Chong Wei, who met Khairy before last week's Indian Open.
"This year, I will focus on the majors (Thomas Cup Finals, Commonwealth Games, World Championships and Asian Games). I will try my best to maintain my form and hang on for another two years," he said.
At the start of this year, Chong Wei threw a damper when he said that he was considering quitting by the end of the year, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.
The Malaysian, who has been world No. 1 for more than five years now, has not shown any signs of slowing down.
On Sunday, he proved that he can still be relied on when he beat Chen Long of China 21-13, 21-17 in the men's singles final of the Indian Open in New Delhi.
It was his third Indian Open title (he also won in 2011 and 2013) and third Superseries title this year, having won the Malaysian Open in January and the All-England in March. The home title was the 10th in his career and the All-England was his third.
"I am taking the whole atmosphere differently now. I am enjoying myself more. In India, I read Chen Long's game easily and played quite well to counter his movements. It has given me confidence," he said.
Chong Wei will be out to add one more Superseries trophy to his collection when he competes in the Singapore Open, which begins Wednesday.
"It has been some time since I last competed in the Singapore Open. I last played there in 2008 when I won the title ... it feels good to be back after many years," he said.
Chong Wei is the only Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) player featuring in the Singapore Open. The top seed will take on 28-year-old China-born Wei Nan of Hong Kong in the opening round on Wednesday.
The other seeded players in the tournament are Kenichi Tago of Japan (2nd), Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia (3rd), Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand (4th), Du Pengyu of China (5th), Son Wan-ho of South Korea (6th), Nguyen Tien Minh of Vietnam (7th) and Kento Momota of Japan (8th).
Six Malaysian independent shuttlers will try their luck from the qualifying tournament on Tuesday. They are former world junior champion Zulfadli Zulkiffli, 2012 national champion Misbun Ramdan Misbun, Tan Chun Seang, Mohd Arif Abdul Latif, Kuan Beng Hong and Chiang Jiann Shiarng.