Doctor who treats athletes is a diehard Lee Chong Wei fan

PETALING JAYA: During the Rio 2016 Olympics semifinal showdown between Lee Chong Wei and his rival Lin Dan, Beijing-born Dr Li Da Zhi cheered so loudly for the Malaysian badminton star that even the Chinese coach noticed.

“It was an intense game. The moment he (Chong Wei) won, I cried tears of joy like everyone else. Shortly afterwards, China’s head coach, Li Yongbo, walked towards me and asked if I was a Chinese national or a Malaysian.

“He said jokingly to me, ‘I don’t even see the Malaysian team cheering as much as you. I am not very happy with you’,” he said, recounting his exchange with Li Yongbo.

“I told him I am Chinese, but I support the Malaysian team, and I really hoped Chong Wei would win the Olympic gold,” said Dr Li.

(The gold medal was eventually won by Chen Long of China.)

Dr Li, who was once a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) doctor with the Malaysian national team, has been living here for 25 years and is now a permanent resident.

He said he was invited by the National Sports Council in 1999 to provide treatment to the team. He ended up serving them for 19 years.

“I would follow the Malaysian team to many competitions, such as those involving bowling, hockey, swimming and wushu. I provided medical treatment and advice for these athletes,” he said, adding that his main responsibility was with the badminton team.

Needless to say, he is one of Chong Wei’s biggest supporters.

“When Chong Wei was breaking into the world rankings, I was assigned to be responsible for his treatment,” he added.

Dr Li’s first interaction with Chong Wei came about even before the shuttler’s enlistment in the national team.

“When I first came to Malaysia, I happened to watch a tournament where Chong Wei was competing. At that time, he was still very young,” he said.

Dr Li recalled a boy who played exceptionally well despite his skinny build.

“After the match, I ran down and commended him for his skills. I said to him, ‘I hope you enter the national team; you will definitely bring glory to the country’.”

Years later, Chong Wei mentioned to Dr Li that someone had once predicted that he would play for Malaysia one day and bring glory to the nation.

“That person was me!” Dr Li told the badminton champion.

Through the years, Dr Li said he had been supportive of the Malaysian team. He has been to many international competitions, such as the Olympic Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and Thomas Cup.

“I feel so much pride and joy as the Malaysian flag is raised and the anthem is sung when the team is victorious,” he said.

Currently, he is the head of KL International TCM Medical Centre, where he continues to treat patients in TCM orthopaedics, sports rehabilitation, health wellness and more. While Dr Li contributes his medical expertise to Malaysia, his wife Yuan Yu Fang, 48, has won medals for Malaysia as a national race walker.

Yuan is a naturalised Malaysian citizen.

“She has not failed the expectations placed on her and has brought pride to the country. Once, she won a gold medal just 28 days after giving birth,” he said.

The couple has three children, all of whom are Malaysians. Their eldest son is completing his degree in China, the middle child has just finished her secondary school exams; and the youngest daughter is still in secondary school.

“I am very proud that my son scored an A for Bahasa Melayu in his final exams,” he said. Beside showing fervent support for Malaysian sports, Dr Li also has high praise for his second home.

“I have travelled to many countries with the team, but to me, Malaysia is the best. It is beautiful. The environment, the air, and the people are all great. I love this country, and whenever I return to China, I tell my friends and family about Malaysia,” he said.

As for the Malaysia-China 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties in May, Dr Li said this would be a special occasion. The bond between them, he said, dates back centuries, when Admiral Cheng Ho came to Melaka.

He observed that Chinese culture is well preserved in Malaysia, and there are Chinese radio stations, newspapers and schools.

“I hope that the friendship between Malaysia and China will go beyond this 50th anniversary to a century, a millennium, and for many generations to come,” he said.

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Lee Chong Wei , Lin Dan , Beijing-born , Dr Li Da Zhi ,


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