KUALA LUMPUR, June 13 — Allahyarham Tan Sri P. Ramlee’s much-loved classic tune Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti best describes the huge gap left by national badminton icon Datuk Lee Chong Wei following his announcement today to retire from the game.
When it comes to this former world No.1, many would agree that Chong Wei, where Malaysian sports is concerned, is truly one in a million.
Whether it was his personality, his characteristics or commitment to badminton, is it clear there is nothing but great admiration for what this 37-year-old has done for the country throughout his 19-year career as the nation’s singles shuttler.
Those who had watched his biopic Lee Chong Wei: Rise of the Legend, would attest to this, as the film depicts the three-time Olympic silver medallist’s journey on badminton’s international stage.
The Penang-born player hung up his racket for good today, with 69 titles, including 47 from the Superseries circuit, earning him the right to be called the ‘King of the Superseries’.
Chong Wei won the Malaysian Open 12 times in his career (2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018), besides emerging as the first non-local player to win the Indonesian Open six times (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016).
He also won the Japan Open five times (2007, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014) and participated in eight editions of the Thomas Cup after making his debut in 2004.
The former world No. 1 (August 21, 2008 to June 14, 2012) won the prestigious All England title four times in his career — 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017, and was runners-up in three World Championships (2011, 2013 and 2015).
There were testing times throughout his 19-year-career, including a doping issue in 2014 and a serious shoulder injury in the 2012 All England final that forced him to retire from the match.
National Sports Council (NSC) director-general, Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail said Chong Wei will be missed, especially because he remained a humble sportsman despite going on to become a household name in world badminton.
“He never was the type of athlete that troubled us, if he wanted anything, he would ask in the most pleasant way. My message to existing and young athletes is this — emulate his characteristics and traits,” he told Bernama today.
National womens singles coach, Datuk Tey Seu Bock, meanwhile, said Chong’s Wei characteristics was hard to be found on any of the current generation of players.
“Of course, every player has their own (characteristics), but I feel we will have to wait for a few more generations (of players) before we find another like him. As a coach, I haven’t seen any yet,” Tey, who was among those who were instrumental in ensuring Chong Wei’s path to three Olympic Games finals.
On Chong Wei’s decision to retire, Tey said, on a personal note, he was happy with it, as besides turning 37 in October, it was decision based on serious health matters.
Tey said Chong Wei’s decision would now lift a lot of the ‘weight’ he had shouldered during his playing years.
“I am happy with his decision as there is no more burden for him. Not many know this, Chong Wei is a very committed player and never took his training sessions or tournaments lightly. He is not one that quits easily,” he said.
Meanwhile, Indonesian badminton legend, Hariyanto Arbi was quoted in antaranews.com as saying that Chong Wei was a fighter on the court and one who displays an extraordinary level of commitment to the game.
He described Chong Wei as a kind hearted athlete who always respects his opponent.
“He is a good-hearted person, loyal, humble and always respects the athletes whom he meets. Always treating everyone the same,” he was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM), in a statement, said members of the media had never once complained about Chong Wei.
“SAM has never received any complaints or hear any grouses of negative treatment from this player regardless of what the situation was, including during his (match) defeats. Datuk Lee Chong Wei has never disappointed sports journalists,” SAM president Jasni Shafie said.
This outstanding athlete has left an outstanding legacy in Malaysian sporting history and the time has finally come for his long awaited and well-deserved rest after an illustrious 19-year career.
Thank you, Datuk Lee Chong Wei and happy retirement Datuk! — Bernama