PETALING JAYA: Lee Chong Wei’s hopes of ending his illustrious career with a fourth Olympic medal is fast fading.
The 36-year-old’s bid to become the first Malaysian to compete in five Olympics has been dealt a major blow as he failed to get the doctor’s clearance for his much-awaited return to the court.
Chong Wei, who has not competed in any tournament since he was diagnosed with nose cancer last July, had initially targeted a return at the All-England earlier this month.
However, he called off the plan and chose next month’s Malaysian Open, a tournament he has won 12 times.
But following a visit to his doctor in Taiwan, the three-time Olympic silver medallist was told to “not put his body under undue stress” and to abort his plans to return to competition.
“Following his routine check-up in Taiwan, we are pleased to inform that Datuk Lee Chong Wei has been given a clean bill of health and his recovery process is progressing well,” said the Badminton Association of Malaysian (BAM) in a statement.
“However, in order not to put his body under undue stress, Chong Wei has been advised to withdraw from the Malaysian Open.
“BAM’s priorities remain focused solely on Chong Wei’s health and will continue to offer him unwavering support. We also urge everyone to give him the space and time required for his recovery.”
It is not immediately known how long Chong Wei will be sidelined, but the delayed return certainly does not bode well as the Tokyo 2020 one-year qualifying period is set to kick off on May 1.
Even when he returns, he will be racing against time to be fit and regain top form.
And Chong Wei is likely to find himself slipping outside the top 100 in the world rankings by the end of April for not defending his winners’ points at the Malaysian Open and also the points for reaching the semi-finals of the Asian Badminton Championships last year.
Despite his low ranking, Chong Wei would still gain entry to all the top-tier World Tour tournaments due to a ranking protection.
BAM had applied a medical exemption for him when he was the world No. 3.
But the protection would last only for six months from the first tournament he entered. Chong Wei must get into the top 32 if he is to enjoy access to all tournaments.
The former world No. 1 also faces competition from compatriots Lee Zii Jia and Liew Daren, the world No. 21 and No. 23 respectively, to qualify. Only a maximum of two players can represent a country if both are ranked in the top 16.