KUALA LUMPUR: National number one Lee Chong Wei has taken note that most of the past Olympic champions were not the early favourites.
And he is well aware that he cannot afford to take anyone for granted in his challenge in the Beijing Olympics next month.
In the last three tournaments before the Olympics – the back-to-back Opens in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand – a few players showed that they can be major stumbling blocks to the rated top contenders for the gold medal.
Currently, Chong Wei and China's world number one Lin Dan are in good form while Indonesian Taufik Hidayat, who is the defending champion, cannot be ruled out even though his performances had taken a dip.
In the final of the Thai Open two days ago, home favourite Boonsak Ponsana almost pulled the rug from under Lin Dan.
At the Indonesian Open, Sony Dwi Kuncoro showed that he was shaping up well for the Olympic by nailing his first “home” title.
In Singapore, Chong Wei defeated Peter Gade-Christensen en route to winning the title but the Dane has a reputation of rising to the occasion in major events.
South Koreans Park Sung-hwan and Lee Hyun-il did not play in all three tournaments but they boast of having impressive records in tournaments this year.
Chong Wei said that he would prepare himself for tough challenges in the Beijing Games and the next five weeks would be crucial for him.
“It is difficult to point the finger at one or two favourites. The previous winners of the Olympics were not the favourites. It is dangerous to under-estimate anyone,” he said.
“In the last three international tournaments, we saw players going the extra mile to win. They are catching up.
“I did well in the Singapore Open and in the Thomas Cup Finals (in Jakarta in May) but I cannot take things for granted. My opponents would have gone back and analysed my game. I have to further improve my speed.”
Chong Wei, however, added that he was happy with the way things were progressing in training and was pleased that coach Misbun Sidek had increased the intensity of the physical aspects.
Besides Chong Wei, Malaysia have veteran Wong Choong Hann as their other representative in the men's singles of the Beijing Olympics.
Olympics men's singles champions since the sport made its debut in the Games in Barcelona in 1992 are Indonesian Alan Budi Kusuma, Dane Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen (1994 Atlanta), Chinese Ji Xinpeng (2000 Sydney) and Taufik.