One of the greatest badminton players of all time, Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei announced retirement from the sport on June 13 at a press conference. The 36-year old was diagnosed with cancer of the nose last year but was able to overcome the disease and expressed his desire to return to top-level international badminton. But the time was running out for the 3-time Olympic silver medallist to qualify for the World Championships later this year and he decided to pull the curtains down.
In his statement issued during the press conference, the Malaysian icon said: "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. It was a tough decision to make but I was left with no option after my recent consultation with doctors in Taiwan last month."
He further stated: "I was given eight questionnaires to answer about my condition 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. I want to thank you Malaysians. I want to thank a lot of people KBS, ISN. I want to thank all my coaches Datuk Misbun Sidek, Datuk Tey Seu Bock."
Chong Wei-Lin Dan rivalry
Chong Wei will always be remembered for the great rivalry he had with China's Lin Dan. Their position in the badminton world can be compared to that of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Both were head and shoulders above other competitors and watching them fighting it out in the final of major events became a common sight.
They played each other in two Olympic gold medal matches – Beijing 2008 and London 2012 – and the semi-final of the men's singles event in Rio de Janeiro 2016 games also. While Lin came out on top in both the Olympic finals, Chong Wei was able to defeat his famous foe in their 2016 encounter. However, he ended up losing the final to another Chinese – Chen Long.
In terms of stats, the biggest achievement of the Malaysian's career would be his maintaining the top position in the BWF World Rankings for 199 weeks in succession and 349 weeks in total. He also won 69 titles in his career, out of which 46 came in the Super Series – now converted into the World Tour. Yet, he retires without having either the World Championship title or the Olympic gold to his name. In World Championships also, he was the runner-up three times.
His famous Chinese rival has been struggling in recent times also and seems to be well past his prime. But Lind Dan stated that the main motivation to continue playing badminton is Chong Wei. Interestingly, the most successful Olympian from Malaysia seemed to be in reasonably good form in the first half of last year, at least better than that of Lin Dan. With him calling it a day, all eyes will be on Lin Dan to see whether he also decided to move on.