WORLD No. 1 badminton player Lee Chong Wei is a big hit in Guangzhou. And coach Misbun Sidek welcomes the overwhelming attention on his charge.
In fact, he is hoping that the extra spotlight would fan the fire in Chong Wei to raise his game at the Asian Games.
It will be an achievement for Chong Wei to reach the final as his previous best was winning a bronze medal at the 2006 Doha Games.
Yesterday, a large group of journalists from China turned up for the Malaysian team’s first training session at Tianhe Gymnasium to interview Chong Wei.
And the 28-year-old Malaysian ace duly entertained them after going through a solid one-hour workout.
Misbun said that two-time China Open runner-up Chong Wei was lapping up all the attention.
“Chong Wei is an icon here. He has a great following and, naturally, the local media want to know more about him,” said Misbun.
“In fact, people also take notice of him at the Games Village. And some are eager to get his autograph. It is good for the sport, and for Chong Wei.
“Too much attention can be harmful but it all depends on how a player deals with it. And Chong Wei is handling it very well.”
Misbun is also aware that there is a keen interest on Chong Wei because he is seen as one who can spoil the party for China.
Chong Wei is seen as the biggest threat to Lin Dan, who is gunning for his first Asian Games men’s singles gold medal.
In fact, the Asian Games title is the only major crown missing from Lin Dan’s collection.
Second seed Lin Dan is in the same half as defending champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, South Korean Park Sung-hwan and Mohd Hafiz Hashim of Malaysia.
Chong Wei will have Chen Jin of China, Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia and Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana in his half of the draw.
Meanwhile, Misbun has given the competition venue the thumbs-up.
“All the players had a good workout. There was a slight draught but it should be manageable,” he said. “Everything is looking good but it is also important how the players fare on match day.”
Besides Chong Wei and Hafiz, the others in the men’s team are Chan Kwong Beng, Liew Daren, Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, Mak Hee Chun-Tan Wee Kiong and Chan Peng Soon. The team competition will be played from Nov 13-16, followed by the individual events from Nov 17-21.