“If we dare to win, we should also dare to lose.”Dato’ Lee Chong Wei
On June 13, Dato’ Lee Chong Wei officially announced his retirement at the press conference.
Although our nation’s hero will be remembered for the titles he won in major tournaments, the road he took had several challenges that also played their part in shaping him to what he is today.
We take a look back at six hardships he went through in his 19-year career and how they also helped to define him as a player and person.
1. His personal demons.
At 17, Dato’ Lee Chong Wei’s impressive potential in playing major local tournaments caught his former badminton coach, Misbun Sidek’s attention.
He was then drafted into the national team where his intensive training began. For six years, he was strictly trained under Misbun who gave him a strong foundation and encouragement.
In his younger days, with his tantrum-throwing and jealous nature, Misbun helped him by pushing his limits through the long hours of training including the intensive one-to-one sparring sessions.
Chong Wei received reprimands and was even banned from participating in the tournaments. He eventually acknowledged that Misbun made these decisions for his own good. A world class athlete isn’t just characterised by physical fitness—mental fortitude is also a hallmark of a champion.
This training was one of the key factors that allowed him to rise to what he became: one of Malaysia’s best athletes on the world stage.
2. The iconic battle that became his first win over Lin Dan.
He was on the verge of losing with 13-20 in the rubber match.
However, he pulled it through by winning seven straight points to be tied with Lin Dan. Keeping up his focus and confidence, he clawed his way back up and led to his victory winning 23-21.
He became a third time Malaysia Open champion and had his first win over Lin Dan.
Despite being judged for his lack of fitness, he managed to make an unexpected turnaround, and that fighting grit and spirit is something that always kept Malaysians glued to their screens whenever he played.
Speaking of Lin Dan, another hurdle Chong Wei would always faced was…
3. Rival ‘brotherly’ matches with Lin Dan.
The nerve-wracking showdowns between Chong Wei and Lin Dan in various tournaments kept viewers in the edge of their seats. Off the court, Lee-Lin’s bond also made headlines.
Many Malaysians might remember the heartbreaking moment was when he shared a sad apology on Twitter after he lost to Lin Dan in the London Olympics 2012. He turned the tables around after beating Lin Dan at the semi-finals in Rio Olympics 2016.
We count this as a challenge because his toughest rival pushed him to become more competitive and keep up the pace, and train to counter Lin Dan’s badminton tactics as well as constantly improve.
4. Painful injuries that could have ended his career prematurely.
Chong Wei got himself a couple of tendon injuries that made him miss out in some tournaments.
In 2008, he had to drop out from China Open and Hong Kong Open due to an old knee injury, to avoid aggravating it.
At the Thomas Cups 2012, he suffered when he tore a tendon on his ankle during a Group C tie match against Denmark. He was in recovery for three to four weeks.
At that time, he also had the burden of delaying his preparations for the London Olympics 2012.
Two years later, he had to miss out in breaking a third champion win at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland because of a tear on his thigh muscles. After recovery, he was back in the court at the BWF World Championships in Copenhagen
In 2017, he slipped on the mat and tore his medial collateral ligament (MCL) on his left knee during his training. After his speedy recovery, he was able to compete at the All England Open Badminton Championships in Birmingham.
Many top athletes had to contend with such injuries, but Chong Wei remained a world-class player throughout, and in the last three Olympics, took the silver medal each time, solidifying his position as one of the best badminton players Malaysia has ever produced.
5. That doping controversy.
In late August 2014, Dato’ Lee Chong Wei was temporarily suspended due to an “apparent” anti-doping violation. He was tested positive for banned anti-inflammatory agent dexamethasone.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) gave him a two-year suspension. He successfully explained that he accidentally took the drug during stem-cell treatment for his thigh injury. He later received a backdated eight-month ban instead.
His ban was lifted on 1 May 2015 but his silver medal from 2014 BWF World Championships was taken away. He then dropped to 181 in the world rankings.
In his dark and lonely days, he was grateful to his family, friends and supporters for being there and giving encouraging words to him.
That could have meant an end to his career, but he continued to play world-class badminton and showed his detractors that he still had it in him.
6. His battle with cancer.
Last year in July, Chong Wei was diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer. He had to skip the world championships in August and the Asian Games in Jakarta.
He went for a two-month long treatment in Taiwan to get himself in the best shape possible with his eye on the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
He went back to training in January this year, but his health affected him. He was not able to be at the All-England and Malaysian Open.
Last month, the doctors in Taiwan revealed to him him that he wasn’t in perfect form to be on the court. He was advised not to exert his health.
Choosing health and family as his priority, with a heavy heart, he made a decision to end his badminton career and officially announced his retirement.
Dato’ Lee Chong Wei felt that he failed to represent our country in badminton but many fans, including Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Tun Dr Siti Hamsah and Lin Dan, are supportive about his decision.
His courage and determination have inspired many of them to overcome their ups and downs.
Thank you, Dato’ Lee Chong Wei for doing your upmost best in your career and for Malaysia. We stand with all Malaysians to wish you all the best in having a better health and creating beautiful memories with your family.
Feature Image Credit: Wikimedia