Badminton world No 1 Lee Chong Wei has learned how to accept defeat, but the stakes have never been higher as he seeks to become Malaysia's first Olympic champion.
Four years after his crushing defeat by arch rival Lin Dan in the Beijing Olympics final, Lee is hoping to go out in a blaze of glory before retiring next year.
'The pressure is on as the Games are less than six months away,' said Lee, who is leading his country in the Thomas and Uber Cup Asia zone qualifiers in Macau where they defeated Hong Kong 3-2 in group D yesterday.
'I have made a convincing start in 2012, but the real test will not come until July. At stake is a bonus of HK$2.8 million for a gold medal and the privilege of becoming the first Malaysian Olympic champion.'
Ranked No 1 in the world before the Beijing Games, Lee was overwhelmed in the Olympic final by 'Super Dan' 21-12, 21-8. Lee said he had changed a lot since the defeat by China's golden boy. 'I used to cry after losing and now I must say there is only one champion and everyone has to accept defeat if they are not good enough,' he said. 'But it doesn't mean I don't have the determination to win an Olympic gold medal. My target is to complete the mission in London.'
Lee, who has announced he will retire next year, launched a new book last month, Dare To Be A Champion.
'I am still hungry for success as you can tell from the title of my new book. I want to beat Lin Dan and Chen Long of China who are probably the two biggest obstacles in London this summer,' he said.
Lee has won the first two Super Series events of 2012, beating Lin 2-1 in the US$1 million Korea Open final and Chen 2-1 in the semi-finals of the Malaysia Open before beating Kenichi Tago of Japan for the title.
The Malaysian ace was fully extended yesterday by Hong Kong's Wong Wing-ki in the opening tie of the preliminary round before winning 21-18, 22-20.
'It was my first match in the tournament and it's not uncommon to suffer a slow start,' said Lee. 'But Wong played a very good match. He has a chance to move to the top five in the rankings, if he continues his steady progress.'
Wong, who defeated Lin in the Denmark Open last year, said it was another learning experience.
'I built up an 8-1 lead in the second game, but he never panics and gradually got back in the game,' said Wong. 'In the closing stages, he was quick and focused and never lost any excessive energy, while I had to run tirelessly to stay with him.'
Wong, ranked 21st in the world, is likely to win qualification for the London Games. 'My target is not only to book a place in London, but also earn a seeding in the draw. I need to sharpen my attacking skills and improve my net play in the next couple of months,' he said.
Hu Yun won the second singles for Hong Kong with a 22-20, 21-18 victory over Hashim Muhammad, but the Malaysians took the match and sent Hong Kong home after winning the two doubles in the best-of-five format, although Chan Yan-kit scored a consolation 17-21, 21-16, 21-19 win over Daren Liew in the dead rubber.
In the Uber Cup, Hong Kong will take on Japan today to decide the winner of group Z after both teams beat hosts Macau. Yip Pui-yin lost the opening singles to former China national team player Wang Rong in straight games, but Hong Kong still managed a 4-1 win by taking all four following matches.