The first name that pops into any Malaysian mind at the very mention of badminton is surely Lee Chong Wei. It's not surprising though, since he is the current World Number 1 singles player.
But how does the young 27 year old feel about the other title that he's recently picked up? "It's truly an honour to be given the title 'Datuk' after my efforts at the Olympics. Though it still feels weird to hear myself being called that, I am getting used to it somehow," he quoted at an exclusive Maxis luncheon in La Bodega, Bangsar.
The luncheon, which preceded a private photoshoot with his coach Misbun Sidek, served as a casual 'chit chat' session with the young 'Datuk'. Relaxed in his sporty 'chill-out' attire, Chong Wei coolly chatted about his passions and his pursuits for the future.
What drives him forward?
Illustrious titles aside, Lee Chong Wei hasn’t had enough. The passion to keep going is what motivates him to strive forward. "What drives me is my constant need to reward myself. For example, before going to the Olympics I set myself a goal of buying a house. By setting these goals, I will push myself harder to achieve a win. It’s hard work, but this attitude has taken me far."
His coach Datuk Misbun Sidek also plays a big part in keeping him motivated. An ex badminton champion himself, Misbun is well aware of what it takes to keep the positive energy flowing through a player."He always motivates and encourages me. He is my mentor, as well as a friend. I’ll always ask for his advice on what I need to achieve next."
His role models…
When asked who his badminton role model is, one name came to his mind - Ong Ewe Hock. "Watching him and the others player on the courts, was truly a humbling experience. It was because of them, that I made up my mind to train harder."
Chong Wei also finds inspiration in sports giants such as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. "I constantly study their games and the way they handle their success. Their positive attitude and patience is inspiring to me."
Is it all about winning?
With a winning attitude and the lust to learn and gain knowledge, it's no doubt that Lee Chong Wei will rise to the top no matter what profession he's in. But is 'success' all that matters to him? "I'll definitely feel happy whenever I win game, and upset when I lose. But it's always important to remember that the two will always come hand-in-hand. Sometimes winning isn't everything and we just need to let it go."
How did you feel after the Olympic Games?
The Olympic win for Chong Wei was one that made Malaysia truly proud. Winning Silver was a great achievement for the country, but how did the shuttler take the pressure? "The Olympic games was one of the most important ones in my life. I couldn't sleep the nights before every game. All I could think about was how to perform my best. I didn't want to disappoint the people back home. I was very happy that all I got was encouragement when I got back. This made my win more meaningful to me."
2009 resolution and wishes…
Satisfied with his wins so far and learning from his defeats, Chong Wei is looking forward to a greater year in 2009. His resolution is to exceed the successes of the previous year and double the knowledge and experience he has gained so far. Hoping the global crisis will end and the economy to recover swiftly, he also wishes for a stronger year for all Malaysians and that they’ll be able to come out from the crisis greater than before.
If there is one thing fans might not know about Lee Chong Wei from the courts, is that he has a remarkable sense of humour. Always able to bring a room to laughter, Chong Wei feels keeping a sunny disposition is the best way to deal with the pressures of being World Number 1.
During an interview at La Bodega, Bangsar, he opened up and shared his thought about himself, his success and his motto for life.
So how does Lee Chong Wei describe Lee Chong Wei? After a quick chuckle, he simply replied, "I'm very low profile and I love to joke and make people laugh."On dating and family…
So what does the star shuttler do when he's not in training? "Normally I’ll be with my girlfriend. We always attend training together and try to encourage one another to play better." Chong Wei's girlfriend is fellow Malaysian Squad shuttler Wong Mew Choo. He jokingly comments that his favourite dating spot with Mew Choo is "on the courts."
Chong Wei also shares a close bond with his family. "My family has been the driving force of support for me. It was my father who got me started in badminton anyways. I also spend a lot of time speaking to my godfather. Seeking his advice and learning from his experience."
Is there a motto you live by...
But you could buy anything you want..."I guess if I had all the money in the world, I'd split it into half. The first half I'd contribute to charity and the second part I'd use to enjoy life."
Do you consider yourself successful?
With the many wins and titles on his belt, Lee Chong Wei is undeniably a successful Malaysian sportsman. But what does he think of all his success?
"I consider being ranked as World Number 1 as a remarkable achievement for myself. But there are still others I've yet to achieve. I never let a win go to my head. I use it as fuel to push me further."
If you weren't a badminton player, what would you be?
"I always imagined myself as a Manager of a business," Lee Chong Wei stated in reply to the question poised at him.
"I never gave serious thought to what I'd be doing if I wasn't playing badminton. But if I were to think of it, I do see myself managing a business somewhere."
Is coaching on his mind?
Does Lee Chong Wei think of following his mentor’s footsteps into coaching? Right now he is just focused on his game and hasn’t yet heard the calling to coach.
"To me, sports is not a lifetime career. And I've never thought about being a coach when I retire. I might try myself out in another field of profession. But it's still too early to say."
What are his plans for the future?
Aware that a career in sports definitely has a short lifespan to consider, Chong Wei has taken time to plan for his future. With the help of a good friend, he has invested in an IT company.
"It's important for me to plan now for my future. My brother in law helps to run the company now, but when the time is right, I will join him."
Have a nice day!