THE life of shuttler Lee Chong Wei is full of ups and downs.
He has been on top of the world and he has been down in the pits.
He was chased out of the badminton court for indiscipline by Datuk Misbun Sidek during his junior days but he came crawling back with a renewed determination. That was the start of Chong Wei’s rise in badminton.
He was wheeled out with a career-threatening ankle injury during a 2012 Thomas Cup Finals tie in Wuhan, China, just three months before the Olympic Games in London. But the iron-willed man made a speedy recovery to reach the final before losing to Lin Dan of China.
There were family problems, mainly surrounding his father, but he was mentally strong to overcome it.
Then came the doping issue in 2015 that almost brought his illustrious badminton career to a premature end. But after an eight-month ban, Chong Wei made an amazing comeback and went on to reach his third Olympic Games final at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
And from a world ranking of No. 180 due to the suspension, he regained his No. 1 status and even relegated China’s Chen Long to No. 2.
While others keep sinking into oblivion as they grow older, Chong Wei keeps getting better in the physically punishing sport.
He won the 2017 All-England title in March just weeks after slipping and hurting his knee on the brand new court of the Malaysian players’ new home – Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) – in Bukit Kiara.
And this month, the scrawny man showed the home fans yet again his devotion and tenacity by lifting his 12th Malaysian Open title with a superb win over Japan’s Kento Momota – a player who is 12 years younger than him.
At every storm that comes his way, the shuttler finds ways to quell it and continue to pile up accolades after accolades to put Malaysian badminton on the pedestal. Books have been written about him. A movie has even been made about the player from Bukit Mertajam in Penang.
Now, the 35-year-old Chong Wei is facing another challenge in his life – probably the biggest ever as he battles a career-cum-life threatening illness.
Due to a respiratory-related disease, Chong Wei has withdrawn from the ongoing World Championships in Nanjing, China, and the Asian Games in Indonesia from Aug 18-Sept 2. He is in Taiwan for a two-month treatment, surrounded by his family – wife Wong Mew Choo and children Kingston and Terrance.
Can he come out of this latest setback in his life?
I’ve known Chong Wei since he joined Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) when he was 17 years old. I’ve seen him grow from a nobody to a man who has single-handedly put Malaysia on the world’s map with his badminton exploits.
I’ve seen his dedication and I know his fighting spirit.
He never gives up. He takes adversities in his stride and it just shows that he is a fighter.
Right now, I’m torn between my duty as a media personnel and a friend. One part of me wants to write every pain, fear and anxiety that he is probably going through and share with the world his struggles, challenges and disappointment of not being able to play badminton right now. I know how badly he wanted to play in his last Asian Games!
But I know too, it’s time to let Chong Wei heal in the comfort of his loved ones and leave the medical experts to do their best. He has asked for privacy and it’s only right to respect it.
The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria put it nicely when he said: “Chong Wei has sacrificed for years by giving his best in badminton. It’s time he takes a rest, look into his own health first and spend quality time with his family.”
So with that, I hope Chong Wei will be given the space to recover.
The Chong Wei whom we all know will surely come back stronger and who knows, he may just defy the odds yet again by representing Malaysia at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games at the age of 37.
The writer will be praying for Lee Chong Wei, one of the greatest badminton players from our shores, to make a speedy recovery and hopes the other shuttlers will make up for his absence by doing well at the ongoing World Championships in Nanjing, China.