The absence of Olympics defending champion Chen Long from the international scene has intrigued many rivals both present and past, including Lee Chong Wei who lost to the Chinese star at the 2016 final.

With the Tokyo Olympics drawing ever closer, Chong Wei couldn’t help but share some thoughts on Chen Long, who could meet Lee Zii Jia in a last-16 clash.

“Chen Long is a different player tactically from before. He is also coached by my former coach Li Mao, and his skillsets have also most likely improved ahead of the Olympics.

“I heard that he did not play well at the Chinese local tournaments. He was not in good form there, but we do not know how he will be at the Olympics,” said Chong Wei as the country’s chef-de-mission in a virtual press conference.

Chen Long is in Group N of the draw and is expected to top the group containing Spain’s Pablo Abian and Estonia’s Raul Must to potentially face Zii Jia in the first knockout clash.

Zii Jia also previously said he was intrigued to know the condition of the defending champion, having not seen him in action for so long.

Both men last met at last year’s All-England quarter-finals, which the Malaysian won.

On a separate note, Chong Wei stressed the importance of being mentally strong in the face of a different Olympics this time.

“I have played in four Olympics and it has never been like this. So because of that, I can’t share that part of my experience with the national contingent.

“My advice is for them to be strong mentally, with daily swab tests and playing without fans. It will be only the Games Village and the courts for these players throughout the tournament, and no sightseeing whatsoever,” he said, adding the team will undergo a three-day quarantine period upon arrival in Tokyo.

Chong Wei himself will not be heading to Tokyo due to health reasons but will be communicating with the contingent virtually throughout.

The Tokyo Games is set to go ahead without any fans following the rise in COVID-19 cases in Japan’s capital.

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