Lee Chong Wei (李宗伟)
On June the 13th, 2019, one of the world’s all-time greatest badminton players officially retired; his name is Lee Chong Wei (李宗伟), also known as Datuk Lee Chong Wei.
Chong Wei was born in Bagan Serai, Perak, into a Malaysian Chinese family and started his humble journey to becoming a champion at the age of 11. He was discovered by a former Malaysian professional badminton player by the name of Misbun Sidek and the rest is history!
He won his first Super Series tournament, the Malaysian Open at the age of 22 and has since gone on to accumulate 69 career titles and reigned as the world no.1 for a consecutive 349 weeks. In 2008, he earned his title Datuk after he became the first Malaysian to have reached an Olympic finals in the men’s singles event. He represented Malaysia in 2008, 2012 and 2016 at the Olympic games and is a triple silver medalist.
He is known for being incredibly fast and having one of the most aesthetic badminton techniques in the badminton arena, with jump smashes that will literally blow your mind. He developed an ironclad defensive style that utilises deep defensive dives to recover from sideline smashes, better than anyone else on the circuit during his peak.
Malaysia has never won an Olympic gold and for years, Chong Wei was their best hope. So he endeavoured to stay the course to go for an Olympic gold medal yet again - despite his shock announcement of being diagnosed with nose cancer in July last year (2018). After treatment in Taiwan, he announced in a press conference in November that he had no intention to retire and would give the Olympic glory one last shot in Tokyo next year at the 2020 Olympic Games.
If there could be any criticism about this champion’s career, it would be that he wasn’t able to claim the Olympic Gold or Badminton World Championship title, quite often losing out to China's Lin Dan. Despite this, he was truly one of the greatest players to ever grace the badminton arena. Like Nadal to the French Open, Chong Wei was to the Malaysian Open, claiming the title a record 12 times. Let's not forget that as an individual he also won:
A total of 47 World Super Series/World Tour Titles
4 All-England Titles
3 Commonwealth Games Gold Medals
2 Asian Championships Gold Medals
Like all great champions, there comes a time when they need to throw in the towel. His hand was forced when his doctor informed him that he risked a relapse if he continued to train at such high intensity.
Chong Wei, 36, announced his retirement due to health concerns at a press conference at the Youth and Sports Minister's office in the presence of the Minister, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.
We may not see another Malaysian shuttler at the level of Lee Chong Wei for a long time, although his coach and mentor, Misbun Sidek said “it’ll take another 10-15 years to produce a gem like Lee Chong Wei”.
We want to take this opportunity to thank Lee Chong Wei for all that he has done for the sport and continue to support his legacy to, in Chong Wei's own words: “make the world realise badminton is the best sport on earth”.
Once again, thanks so much for reading our blog and we hope to see you out there!
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Main image source: Wikimedia
Second image source: Wikimedia
Last year in August, I was lucky enough to travel to Basel, Switzerland to coach the Australian Team at the 2019 World Championships.
Being a former player that has competed at such tournaments such as the World Championships, I found that the experience was vastly different as a coach compared to an athlete.