KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 — Malaysian badminton hero Datuk Lee Chong Wei penned an inspirational message to the Olympic-bound athletes, with less than a month to go for the biggest sports showdown on Earth, set to begin on July 23.
Chong Wei, who is also Malaysia's Chef-de-Mission (CDM) for the Tokyo Games, said with preparations for the ‘pandemic-torn’ Olympics being very unusual, it might turn kind for some to beat the odds as dark horses.
The 38-year-old noted that, in normal sports calendars, Olympics preparations take about two years through the qualifiers and programs organised by the National Sports Council and sports associations to sharpen skills, toughen drills and strengthen mental strength.
But with the unrelenting Covid-19 pandemic, which forced the Tokyo Games to be postponed for a year, the preparations were hardly like before, as athletes trained in safety bubbles under strict quarantine, and many tournaments and training schedules were halted.
The three-time Olympic silver medallist, the country’s most successful athlete so far, also recalled his last victory on the Olympics stage, beating former champion and nemesis Lin Dan of China in the 2016 Rio Games semifinals.
“When I beat Lin Dan, nothing beat the pride and honour. I was dead tired at that time in the semis. I thought I would have lost to Lin Dan again. But I told myself not to let down the 32 million people's prayers (for me) back home.
“Giving me the extra push to clinch the winning point. How the country celebrated is still fresh in my mind. Imagine the national eruption if my tired body didn’t give way and I could beat Chen Long the day after?
“I missed my chance. It’s your turn now, comrades. It’s the time for the only the tough to get going,” Chong Wei wrote in his Facebook page.
After losing the chance to deliver country’s most awaited gold medal twice, in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games, both after defeat to Lin Dan, Chong Wei was in the verge of winning the elusive gold at the Rio Games, but this time was denied by another Chinese player Chen Long in the final.
Chong Wei also reminded the athletes that every time they don the national crest and enter the competition arena, 32 million Malaysians will be cheering and praying for their success.
“Be a Malaysian hero,” he added. — Bernama