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FEATURE World's best badminton player makes final bid for Olympic gold By John Grafilo, dpa

Europe
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The world‘s top-ranked badminton player, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, is a desperate man, heading to Rio knowing that these Games will be the final shot he has to secure the gold medal which has eluded him throughout his career.

Kuala Lumpur (dpa) - The world‘s best badminton player, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, has admitted that the Rio Games will be his last chance to secure an Olympic gold medal, as time catches up with him.

"I feel more pressure on my shoulders since after the next four years I think I have no chance, so this is my last chance," the 33-year-old told reporters in Rio.

Lee lost in the finals of the 2008 and 2012 Olympics to the mercurial Chinese Lin Dan. In Rio he is expected to meet his Chinese nemesis again in the semi-finals.

Malaysians, who are also hungry for their country‘s first ever gold medal, are confident Lee will win this time.

Former Malaysian sportswriter Terrence Netto said Lee has made a lot of preparation for the Games and that he has matured greatly.

"Lee knows that this is his final chance to bring the distinct honour of winning an Olympic gold, not only for himself but also for his country," Netto said. "His game has improved a lot and he has become more calculating and patient."

Lee‘s rise in the badminton world began back in 2004 when he won the Malaysian Open and the Chinese Taipei Open. He went to his first Olympics in Athens in 2004, but lost in the second round to Chen Hong of China.

Despite his Athens setback, Lee persevered and won more international titles in the following years including the Swiss Open in 2006. He also won two gold medals in the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Lee‘s career hit a low when he failed a doping test in 2014 and was suspended from participating for eight months.

World badminton authorities accepted his explanation that he took the banned drug unintentionally after having stem-cell treatment for a thigh injury.

Lee did not stop training while he was suspended and when he resumed playing in 2015, he won the US Open and a silver medal at the World Championships.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told Lee that the country was hoping he will win the first ever gold medal for the country.

"I don‘t want to put added pressure, it is not right because you have been training very hard. I‘m not here to tell you what to do, but the nation is behind you," Najib said during a send off of the 32-member Malaysian contingent to the Rio Olympics.

Lee‘s coach Tey Seu Bock described him as a very different player, having matured since returning to competition after the eight-month ban.

"He is stronger mentally," Seu Bock said. "He is prepared for all eventualities and is calm ahead of the competition. He is focused on achieving what he wants."

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