TWO-TIME Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei returns to Malaysia today not thinking about the adulation he will richly deserve but of what the future holds for him.
He has, temporarily, allayed fears by announcing that he will continue to shoulder the Malaysian burden for the next two years but what about after that?
Chong Wei has, for two consecutive Olympics, ensured that Malaysia appeared on the medal tally but the nation can't expect him to be there for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro and even if he is, he will be 34 years old and surely, not capable of winning a third medal.
"It is time to look and plan for the future as I surely can't be expected to be playing in the 2016 Olympics," said Chong Wei, when it was pointed out to him that Denmark's Poul Erik Hoyer Larsen, in winning the singles gold in the 1996 Atlanta Games, was 34.
"The most I can see myself playing for is another two years as I am targeting the World Championships and the 2014 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. If I go on beyond that, I will be playing with a walking stick," said Chong Wei after losing to China's Lin Dan in Sunday's London Olympics final at the Wembley Arena.
"We need to move on and develop the back-up singles players and also find new ones. We have players but it is now about ensuring that they become good enough to challenge the best after I have retired.
"I am glad that BAM (Badminton Association of Malaysia) is already laying plans for the future and that the coaches will be included in the planning. This is very important if we are to continue challenging for honours."
BAM, flush with cash thanks mainly to Chong Wei's efforts, had announced previously that it would use a portion of the multi-million ringgit sponsorship from Maybank for development.
The plan has to be implemented as soon as possible if Malaysia is to stand a chance of returning with honours from the 2016 Rio Games.
"Players have to be exposed and programmes have to be implemented. It is good that BAM is already laying the groundwork for this is very crucial for the future of Malaysian badminton," added Chong Wei.
The good news for Malaysia is that Chong Wei sees a more open playing field after he and nemesis Lin Dan depart the scene.
"Although China, through Chen Long and the huge reservoir of talent they have at their disposal, hold the edge, I believe that the men's singles will be a more open affair in the near future," he said.
Lin Dan, twice an Olympic gold medallist at Chong Wei's expense, also announced that he would play for the near future but both players will slowly but surely reduce their presence on their international stage and await the arrival of the next king of badminton.
Everything points to China producing him but Chong Wei is hoping that it will be a Malaysian who can finish off what he hoped to do -- win an Olympic gold medal.