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KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Badminton's world number one Lee Chong Wei faced calls on Friday to reduce his rigorous playing schedule if he wants to extend his career to the 2016 Olympics.
The 30-year-old was stretchered from the court during this month's world championships final against Lin Dan with cramp and dehydration, in the latest heartbreaking defeat to his nemesis.
But Lee, still without a world or Olympic title despite consistently topping the rankings, was back playing in the lucrative new Indian Badminton League (IBL) just days later.
"He should not participate in too many tournaments," said Zolkples Embong, Malaysia's national sports council director-general, adding that Lee should focus on the Olympics and next year's Asian Games.
James Selvaraj, a former Malaysian international player, also said Lee should be resting before defending his title at next month's Japan Open, rather than playing the franchise-based Indian event.
"He needs some time to recover and also needs sufficient training if he wants to defend his Japan Open title," Selvaraj was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times newspaper.
At the world championships in Guangzhou, Lee fell once again to Lin, who also beat him in the Olympic final a year ago. The Chinese star had played only one tournament in the interim.
"Chong Wei needs to be in good condition due to his age and he needs to pace himself well and select his tournaments if he is really thinking of extending his career until 2016," Selvaraj said.
But Sieh Koh Chi, secretary-general of the Olympic Council of Malaysia, said Lee "knows how to take care of himself".
"He will not do anything that will jeopardise his career. He probably has a contract to play in the Indian league," he told AFP.
Lee suffered a serious ankle injury in the run-up to the London Olympics but managed to recover sufficiently to reach the final against Lin.
He has said he would like another crack at an elusive gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The million-dollar IBL, touted as the sport's richest event and with a shorter points system to speed up matches, is being played between teams representing six Indian cities and wraps up on August 31.