PUTRAJAYA, June 13 — Hours after announcing his retirement, Malaysian badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei apologised to his country for not having delivered an Olympic gold, saying that his decision to quit was to devote more time to his family.
In a heartfelt Facebook post, Lee said that having played for himself and for his country, he now wants to “play the role of a father” to his children and take care of his wife.
The 36-year-old former world number one is quitting the sport after an illustrious 19-year career.
He was diagnosed with nose cancer in July last year, but was later cleared by doctors and started training again in January.
Lee said doctors he consulted in Japan last month said he “might face the risk of recurrence” if he continued to train.
“I was at loss,” Lee said in his post. “I thought ‘How am I supposed to hang up my racket after nearly twenty years of competitive badminton, how about my Olympic dreams’?”
Lee said he has been keeping himself occupied with his two sons, Kingston and Terrence.
“I bathed them, I fed them, I taught them badminton. I spent time with them. Most importantly, I really watched them grew up,” he said.
“Then it struck me to finally make up my mind. I shouldn’t be so selfish.
“I have played for myself, I have played for my country. This time, I want to play the role of a father, for (a) long long time.
“I want to see them grow up to be proper men, to get married, to have kids. I want to take care of my wife when she is old too.”
He apologised for not being able to represent his country at the next Olympics in Tokyo. He was a silver medallist three times: In Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016.
“And I’m sorry I didn’t deliver an Olympic gold,” Lee said. “But I know I’ve no regrets as I’ve tried my best. My very best.”
He expressed his hope that his name will inspire others, as he called on current stars like Kento Momota of Japan and Viktor Axelsen of Denmark to “make the world realise badminton is the best sport on earth”.
“To fellow Malaysian shuttlers, don’t give up the dream. Please remember there are actually thousands of Malaysians praying for your success,” Lee said.
“There is actually a young five years old Ali, Muthu or Ah Meng idolising you, making you their Malaysian superhero. Don’t disappoint them. Play for the flag, play for Negaraku,” he added.
Lee said he is leaving the sport with no regrets.
“When I started playing badminton, all I wanted to do is to represent Malaysia,” he said.
“And I believed I did it with pride and honour.” — TODAY