KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 — Malaysia ended the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with its highest medals tally after Datuk Lee Chong Wei delivered another silver medal to make it four silvers and a bronze.
The total is the country’s best by far since it began participating in the Olympic Games as the Federation of Malaysia in 1964, easily eclipsing the previous high water marks of Atlanta 1996 and London 2012.
Malaysia watched Lee last night as he challenged China’s Chen Long in the badminton men’s singles final for the country’s last opportunity to bag the elusive gold medal in the current Olympics, but the Chinese player was able to deny Lee and win 18-21, 18-21.
Lee’s silver adds to those won by men’s badminton doubles pair Goh V. Shem and Tan Wee Kiong, mixed doubles pair Goh Liu Ying and Chan Peng Soon, and synchronised diving duo Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong. Cyclist Azizulhasni Awang won a bronze.
Speaking after his match, Lee conceded to feeling the nerves in his match against the world number two Chen.
“If you compare this to my two previous Olympics, 2008 and 2012, this was my best performance, but my opponent was simply better and I accept that,” Lee said in an interview with satellite television news channel Astro Awani.
“I know Malaysians, my former coaches my family are all watching I know everyone is disappointed. I tried my best, but people will be disappointed. I cannot do anything except apologise I tried my best,” said a visibly emotional Lee.
With his latest, Lee has provided three of the six silver medals Malaysia has from all the Olympic Games in which it has participated, having won the same prize in Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
The first silver won by the country was delivered in 1996 by badminton men’s doubles pair Cheah Soon Kit and Yap Kim Hock. Contemporary single’s star Rashid Sidek gave Malaysia its first ever medal, a bronze, in Barcelona 1992.
Having never won more than two medals at any Olympics, Malaysia is leaving Rio de Janeiro with five, despite the heartbreak of again missing out on the elusive gold.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who watched Lee’s match with over a thousand people at a special viewing session in Putrajaya, said he and Malaysians remained proud of Lee despite last night’s result.
Fellow Olympic medallist Azizulhasni, who was also at the screening in Putrajaya, perhaps summed up Malaysia’s feelings best via an Instagram post.
“Well done @leechongweiofficial .. You’re still the best bro,” the cyclist wrote.