Lee Chong Wei is Malaysia's hero, says Olympian Chan Peng Soon

Chan, who won a silver in mixed doubles with Goh Liu Ying in Rio, was part of the Grand Stars Match, also featuring Lee, in December last year.

Chan Peng Soon (r) with Lee Chong Wei (c) and Goh Liu Ying at the 2017 All England Badminton Championships.   -  Twitter (@Petronasbrands)

Malaysian badminton legend Lee Chong Wei may have retired from the sport but he still has a special place in the hearts of fans across the nation, according to his countryman and friend Chan Peng Soon, an Olympian himself.

Chan, who won a silver in mixed doubles with Goh Liu Ying at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was part of the 'Grand Stars Match', also featuring Lee, in December last year.

The fixture conducted with a view of raising funds for the Lee Chong Wei foundation also involved the current men's singles world No. 7 Jonatan Christie of Indonesia.

"Lee Chong Wei is like my big brother. He also takes good care of other juniors. There are lots of things to learn from him because he is very experienced. He is the hero of our nation and Malaysians hold him at a special place in their hearts. The Grand match was conducted for a noble cause and to enjoy the game as players and fans. After retirement, this was Lee's first match. So we had fun with him," Chan Peng Soon told Sportstar.

The 31-year-old doubles specialist is currently representing the Bengaluru Raptors in the Premier Badminton League (PBL). His side qualified for this season's semifinals after beating Awadhe Warriors 5-0 in Hyderabad on Thursday.

"I'm very excited to play PBL. For me, the Raptors team is like family. We enjoy the game together, there's no pressure. My captain (Sai Praneeth) told me to enjoy as well. He is very friendly and calm during the matches and practice," he said.

Chan and Goh have played the Indian pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa four times and their head-to-head record stands at two-all.

At the 2018 Commonwealth games, the teams met twice - once during the mixed doubles bronze medal match, in which the Malaysians came out on top, while the other clash happened in the mixed team event's final tie, which saw Satwik and Ashwini emerging victorious - in Gold Coast, Australia.

"They (Satwik and Ashwini) have been very consistent recently. They don't make many mistakes. And Satwik has a very powerful smash which might be scary at times. I was very disappointed to lose the Commonwealth (Games) final because I didn't do my part that day. However, it was great that India won the mixed team event for the first time ever.

"It's very good that the standard of doubles players in India has improved. Most of them are very young. They have the challenge to perform well but have a very long way to go as well. They are doing good now and if they keep up the consistency they can maybe win an Olympic medal in the category," the world No. 7 added.

Like any other shuttler, Chan Peng Soon emphasized the importance of representing his nation at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Malaysia has three mixed doubles teams - Goh and Chan (No. 7 in Race to Tokyo Rankings), Lai Shevon Jemie and Goh Soon Huat (No . 10), Lai Pei Jing and Tan Kian Meng (No. 13) - in contention for Olympic spots.

Only two of these teams, at maximum, can make it to Tokyo, provided both are in the top-eight before the end of the Olympic badminton qualification period, the deadline for which is April 26.

"Malaysia has three teams which can qualify for the Olympics. I just want to concentrate on my team's game. After PBL, I will take some rest and then move on to the German Open, All England etc. So this is a step-by-step process. My partner is also in pretty good shape and she is very committed to the sport.

"Of course, I want to win another Olympic medal. If we can get to the semis that would be nice. From there, immaterial of the colour of the medal I would be quite content," he said.

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