Malaysian badminton star Lee Chong Wei, often hailed as the country’s national hero and a sports legend, announced his retirement Thursday at the Youth and Sports Minister’s office in Putrajaya, Malaysia ending a brilliant career.
“Today everyone knows more or less my intention for calling this press conference. I would like to announce that I’m retiring from the sport after 19 years,” a teary-eyed Lee told a packed press conference, adding, “My decision to retire is a heavy one. I really love this sport. But it’s a demanding sport. I thank all Malaysians for the past 19 years.”
Lee, a father of two, was diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer last year and after intensive treatment in Taiwan, said he was keen to play again. But he hasn’t trained since April and after missing a series of self-imposed deadlines to return to competition, his hopes of being eligible for next year’s Tokyo Olympics were remote.
“It was a tough decision to make but I was left with no option after my recent consultation with doctors in Japan last month. I was given eight questionnaires to answer about my conditions and the outcome came out to show that I’m not fit to do high-intensity activities. So it’s not suitable for me to exert myself for the sake of my health,” the 36-year-old explained.
Aside from bagging 69 titles throughout his career including 46 titles in the now-defunct Superseries – the Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) top-flight circuit, Lee is also a three-time Olympic silver medallist: Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016. Initially, he was gunning for one last Olympics in Tokyo next year. It’s safe to say that Lee will be sorely missed by not only Malaysians but also badminton fans around the world.
In speaking about what’s next for him, Lee said he would now like to rest and spend time with his family, and even take his wife on a “honeymoon”, a trip that has been delayed since their marriage in 2012. Meanwhile, Malaysian Minister of Youth and Sports Syed Saddiq has announced that Lee Chong Wei has been nominated as the chef de mission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Sources: The Star, AFP