INJURY-hit top seed Lee Chong Wei believes he has given himself a chance of winning his race against time -- and claiming an improbable men's badminton Olympic gold medal.
Torn ankle ligaments caused Chong Wei, 29, to be ushered away in a wheelchair during the Thomas Cup in May, casting serious doubt over the then world No 1's Olympic campaign.
However stem cell treatment, plus 13 hours' rehab each day, and a flinty attitude have bolstered him physically and mentally, enabling him to confound those who claimed he wouldn't make it.
These trials have given him new perspectives. "It has been a long and lonely road for me since I suffered that injury," said the Malaysian who is the most brilliantly fleet-footed player of them all in full flow.
"To be honest, it dawned on me during that time who were my real friends, who actually cared for me, Chong Wei, the ordinary person.
"So many walked away, but never once did I ever think of calling it quits.
"All this negativity spurred me on to prove a point."
Chong Wei wants the gold medal, both to improve on the silver medal he won in Beijing four years ago, and to finally get the better of his nemesis Lin Dan in a major event.
Coping with the sensational Lin, China's Olympic and world champion, is perhaps the hardest task in the history of badminton, and Chong Wei also has to deal with the memory of the last time they played at Wembley arena last August.
Chong Wei held two match points against Lin Dan in a monumental world final.
Afterwards, he said he was considering extending his career for a year to the next world titles in 2013, having spoken of retiring at the Olympics.
"That was a stunning defeat as I was almost there, but all of a sudden the title vanished right before my eyes," Chong Wei remembers.
"That defeat still lingers in my mind, and it has strengthened my resolve to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
"Wembley arena was unkind to me 12 months ago, so let's hope Lady Luck will smile at me this time around."
Lin Dan, who also beat Chong Wei in the Beijing 2008 final, was generous towards his long-term adversary.
"We are long-time competitors, but our biggest enemy is not each other, but injury," he said. "As his competitor, I wish him to come back as quickly as possible."