Malaysian shuttler Lee could play at SEA Games
Former world No. 1 promises to deliver point for Malaysia if he's cleared to compete
He wowed the crowds at the Singapore Indoor Stadium last year at the OUE Singapore Open, before losing to Indonesia's Simon Santoso in the men's singles final.
Come June, Malaysia's former world No. 1 men's shuttler Lee Chong Wei may well return to the same arena to compete in the men's team event at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
At the sidelines of a mobile phone launch in Malaysia on Friday, the 32-year-old told Malaysian media: "I'll only play in the team event as the BAM (Badminton Association of Malaysia) plans to send me for a tournament which will clash with the SEA Games' (singles) competition.
"If I'm eligible to compete, the team will be counting on me to deliver the first point. I hope to play the crucial role of boosting the team's morale."
The 2008 and 2012 Olympic men's singles silver medallist is provisionally banned by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) after testing positive for anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone during the world championships last August.
He was in Amsterdam last week for an appeal hearing, and expects a verdict in about two weeks.
The SEA Games badminton competition will take place from June 10-16, with the men's and women's team events happening in the first three days.
It is likely that the Yonex-sponsored shuttler will compete at the Yonex US Open - a Grand Prix Gold tournament - after the SEA Games if he is cleared to play, as it is the highest-level BWF-sanctioned competition in June, after the SuperSeries Premier-level Indonesia Open from June 2 to 7.
The 28th SEA Games will be Lee's first appearance at the biennial multi-sports event since 2005, where he guided his team to the men's team title in Manila.
He lost to Indonesia's Santoso in the men's singles semi-finals then, and settled for a bronze.
While a SEA Games men's singles gold is conspicuously missing from Lee's medal and trophy collection, the world No. 30 shuttler is nonchalant about the statistic.
He said: "No, it (the individual SEA Games gold medal) is not important to me... it does not offer any world ranking points.
"It's the Olympics that matters. There's no time to be wasted come May 1, when the one-year Rio 2016 qualification period commences.
"It's important for me to start collecting points through the world-ranking tournaments in order to improve on my position."
Singapore Badminton Association director of team administration Chew Keet Hou believes that if Lee is cleared to play at the SEA Games, his presence will be a boon for fans, but a bane for other countries in the men's team event.
Chew said: "Lee Chong Wei is one of the best men's singles players in the world. I believe badminton fans would be very excited if they can see him in action here.
"If he can play for Malaysia, it would definitely boost their chances at the Games."
Singapore's former world No. 6 Ronald Susilo echoed that view, and said: "Malaysia will be the favourites for the men's team gold if Chong Wei gets to play.
"Indonesia are strong, but I don't believe all the world-ranked players will be here for the SEA Games because the competition is less important to them now than it was during my time.
"If he plays, I think it would be a confirmed point for Malaysia in the team competition.
"Other than Lin Dan and Chen Long, there are few others in the world who can beat him."