28th SEA GAMES
His singles place was in doubt before the SEA Games competition.
And while Chong Wei Feng managed to keep his spot, his road to the final was anything but easy.
Nevertheless, the Malaysian shuttler made the best out of his arduous SEA Games journey, clinching his first men's singles badminton gold at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday.
His ticket to the Games had been very much in doubt last month when compatriot and former world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei returned to the fold after serving his eight-month doping suspension.
After being absent from the Games for the past 10 years, Lee could have been fielded in the men's singles instead of the world No. 36 Chong, even though his ranking had fallen to No. 79.
However, Lee decided to take part only in the team event, and Chong played on.
The 28-year-old had a tough road to the final, slogging hard against defending champion Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk from Thailand in the semi-finals, before winning 13-21, 21-18, 21-15.
Yesterday, he followed the thrilling win with a more straightforward 21-8, 21-9 victory over compatriot Mohamad Arif Abdul Latif to seal his gold.
He said after the game: "I am satisfied with my entire performance these Games as I did not lose a single match. Everything has been going smoothly."
Chong had been struggling for form over the past few months and had even contemplated quitting the national team, after being dropped for August's World Championships so as to accommodate the 32-year-old Lee.
But after this SEA Games gold, a motivated Chong looks forward to next year's Rio Olympics.
"I hope to collect as many points and climb up the rankings to become one of the top 16," he added.
However, Badminton Association of Malaysia technical director Morten Frost said: "The Olympics are going to be tough for him, it is a very borderline case.
"But I tell him (Chong) to never give up, give it a good go.
"It has been a good performance by him, it shows that it is possible."
Chong's gold was one of two the Malaysians captured.
The other came from women's doubles pair Amelia Anscelly and Soong Fie Cho, who beat compatriots Vivian Hoo and Woon Khe Wei 21-18, 21-13 in yesterday's final.
But the mixed doubles pair of Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying lost the title to Indonesia's Jordan Praveen and Debby Susanto 21-18, 13-21, 23-25.
This article was first published on June 17, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.