'Chong Wei has the highest fitness level'

 Lee Chong Wei’s eight month doping ban has not deflated his spirits. If at all, the Malaysian has returned stronger on the international circuit and is looking primed to compete in Rio Olympics where he will fight for that elusive gold medal.

India's chief coach Pullela Gopichand hailed the genius of Chong Wei but felt the former World No 1’s quest for an Olympic gold would be challenged by the Chinese great Lin Dan and reigning World No 1  Chen Long.

Chong Wei, who is appearing for Hyderabad Hunters in the Premier Badminton League, has won his last three tournaments- French Open, China Open and Hong Kong Open. “He has highest quality fitness, concentration and a great ambassador of the sports. It was unfortunate what happened to him.  He had his problems against a few top players in the world (from China) but other than that he has ruled the world badminton in the last few years,” Gopichand said.

“He will be someone who will be really difficult to beat because of his pure speed and angles in his strokes that makes him very, very effective.”

Chong Wei might be in the twilight of his career, but yearns for an Olympic gold. Twice he had to settle for silver medal in the Olympics because of Dan, with whom he shares a long rivalry. The Chinese great commands 35-25 head-to-head advantage. Long, too, has been troubling Chong Wei and had beaten him at the World Championships last year.

“I have a great lot of respect for someone like Cheng Long. He is a fantastic individual, with whatever he has he maximizes it. He goes back and comes back very strongly in terms of his physical and mental preparations,” Gopichand said.

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