Citing health reasons, Malaysian badminton king Lee Chong Wei announced his plans for retirement last week. In 2018, Lee was diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer and was told by his doctors that his health condition is no longer suitable for the intense training required for high-competitive sports.
The three-time Olympics silver medalist has become a prominent figure in Malaysia. His recognition, achievements, and dedication to the sport of badminton are clearly second to none. Lee’s retirement from professional badminton is surely a sad day for fans around the world.
While not participating in future sporting events as a competing athlete, Lee Chong Wei will be transitioning into a new role within the sport. According to Reuters, Lee will still be heading to Japan in 2020 as Malaysia’s chef de mission for the Games.
Born in 1982, Lee started his badminton quest at the age of 11. With talent and hard work, Lee was selected into the Malaysian national team squad at the age of 17. In 2000, Lee won his first international competition medal from the World Junior Badminton Championships, in which he finished in third place in the boy’s single competition.
Lee started his adult playing career in 2002. Despite having some struggles in early stages, Lee Chong Wei stood out from numerous young talents and finally reached the No.1 World ranking spot in 2006.
Despite being the once No.1 ranking badminton athlete in the world, Lee Chong Wei has never won an Olympic Gold Medal in badminton despite having four tries from 2004 to 2016. Among these four heart-breaking experiences, two of them were against the Chinese badminton player Lin Dan, one of Lee’s long-time rivals in the world badminton competitions.
Hearing about Lee’s retirement, Lin Dan responded on social media that it is a loss for badminton as nobody will be accompanying his journey in badminton anymore.
Born in 1983, Lin Dan shares a very similar experience with Lee Chong Wei as they both started receiving attention for their talent early on. Lin started playing badminton at the age of 5 and started his official training at the age of 9. In 1995, Lin became the national champion in the junior tournament’s boy’s single competition. His excellent performance was noticed by the Chinese military sporting team. Lin later enlisted into the military, and started his journey as one of the best badminton players in China.
Joining the Chinese national team in 2000, Lin Dan started to develop his potential in men’s singles competitions. Lin clinched the No.1 ranking player seat in 2004 and kept the position for more than two years before conceding the honor to Lee Chong Wei in 2006. However, Lin’s strong performance in international competitions did not transfer into an Olympic medal in 2004. Despite entering the tournament as the No. 1 seed, Lin lost his game in the 16th round and concluded his Olympic journey sooner than he had hoped.
However, Lin’s performance improved in the following two Olympics by winning back to back Olympics champions in the men’s singles tournament. Lin won with a score of 27-12 in his match against Lee Chong Wei, and won two significant victories in the Olympics that brought him two Olympics gold medal in 2008 and 2012. Lin has been a key player in the Chinese national team in World Championships and World Cup tournaments as well.
Lin retired from the Chinese military in 2015 and then became a local resident in Beijing. In 2017, Lin started to participate in the national badminton games representing the city of Beijing.
The 35-year-old former Olympic champion is no longer at his peak. Lin placed 16th in the latest rankings that were released last week. While no longer the top choice for the Chinese national team, it remains unclear when Lin’s playing career will finally come to an end.
Despite several controversies on and off the badminton court, including physical confrontation with former coaches and cheating on his wife, former Chinese badminton player Xie Xingfang, Lin has managed to uphold his reputation among Chinese sports fans and is widely regarded as a national sports hero. They were proud of him representing their country in international tournaments and the Olympics.
As Lee Chong Wei announced his retirement in badminton, there will be no more epic playoffs between Lin and Lee. However, for badminton fans living in this era, the extraordinary matches between Lin and Lee will forever remain classics in badminton history.
Featured photo credit to wenhui.whb.cn