Malaysian badminton star Lee Chong Wei announces retirement

PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

PUTRAJAYA - Former world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei has announced his retirement from professional badminton after an illustrious 19-year career.

The decision did not come as a surprise.

"Today everyone know 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," said the 36-year-old during a packed press conference at the Menara KBS here on Thursday (June 13).

"It was a tough decision to make but I was left with no option after my recent consultation with doctors in Taiwan 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."

"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," said Chong Wei while trying to hold back tears.

Chong Wei was diagnosed with nose cancer in July last year.

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.

He was a three-time silver medallist in Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016.

Although he resumed training in early January and initially targeted a competitive return at the All-England in March and Malaysian Open in April, his plans came to nought.

And lately, his on-off short training stints were disrupted and he has not been seen on a badminton court for six weeks.

Chong Wei gave his biggest hints yet of him retiring when he penned a Malay pantun in his Hari Raya wish on Instagram last Wednesday (June 5).

"Chong Wei dah cuba sedaya upaya; Emas Olimpik tidak terdaya; Kepada semua Selamat Hari Raya; Mohon maaf atas segalanya," wrote Chong Wei in the post.

There was a point when Chong Wei showed he was on the right track for a comeback.

He took to Facebook on April 4 to reiterate his desire to compete in the Olympics and resume his long-standing rivalry with China's Lin Dan.

His post was in response to a Lin Dan statement that Chong Wei was the reason he kept competing. But after failing several times to get green light from his doctors, Chong Wei came to accept that his days were numbered.

Besides missing the Olympic gold, Chong Wei will now also step down without having an elusive world title to his name.

He finished runner-up in his three world championships outings in London (2011), Guangzhou (2013) and Jakarta (2015).

But no one can take away the fact that he's one of the best men's singles shuttler the world has ever seen.

In all, he had bagged 69 titles throughout his career. That includes a staggering 46 titles in the now-defunct Superseries - the Badminton World Federation's (BWF) top-flight circuit.

He also spent a whopping 349 weeks, including a 199-week streak from 2008-2012 as the world No. 1.

The fans are sure going to miss some of Chong Wei's trademark skills such as tight net play and cross-court smash.

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