PETALING JAYA: Former national badminton ace Lee Chong Wei has paid a heartfelt tribute to all his coaches ahead of his highly anticipated return to court for the Grand Match at the Arena of Stars in Genting Highlands today.
The 37-year-old took to his official Instagram account yesterday to express gratitude to important individuals who mentored him throughout his illustrious career that saw him spend a combined 348 weeks as the world No. 1 and amassed a whopping 69 titles.
Chong Wei could have easily lasted until the Tokyo Olympics had he not been diagnosed with a nose cancer which forced him to hang up his racquet in June.
It has been close to six months since Chong Wei left the sport for good but he clearly never forget the men who shaped his career.
The three-time Olympic silver medallist made a special shout-out to eight coaches namely Datuk Misbun Sidek, Teh Peng Huat, the late Indra Gunawan, Li Mao, Rashid Sidek, Morten Frost, Datuk Tey Seu Bock and Hendrawan.
“Few more days before waving goodbye to 2019... It has been a roller-coaster ride for me, physically and emotionally. I’d like to take a moment and thank all my coaches, ” said Chong Wei.
“(They) not only polished my badminton skills but also built my personality to who I am now, ” said Chong Wei.
Chong Wei recalled how the tough training regime he was put through had turned him into a world-beater.
“Without them, I wouldn’t have had the chance to play for my country. They were tough in training, very tough until there were some days my mind went blank due to over exerting myself, ” he said.
“There were moments I vomited on the court. Hundreds of times I went home with cramps. Never did I complain as I knew they could have been easy with me, took their pay cheque easily and continued with their lives. They were tough and strict as they want to bring the best out of me.
“Will always be grateful for what they have done for me.
“Just like the Chinese saying ‘One day as your teacher, a lifetime as your father’. Thank you coach!”
In Genting today, Chong Wei is set to make his public appearance for the first time, albeit a short one, for an exhibition match.
The Grand Match also features 2018 Asian Games singles gold medallist Jonatan Christie of Indonesia; the 2016 Rio Olympic Games mixed doubles silver medallists Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying, the 2016 Malaysian Masters finalist Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin and former doubles star Woon Khe Wei.
The last time Chong Wei played a competitive match was in the semi-finals against Kento Momota of Japan of the Indonesian Open in July last year.
It’s not immediately known if Chong Wei will be playing in a singles match but he is slated for at least one mixed doubles match.
And Liu Ying is rubbing her hands with glee at the possibility of teaming up with Chong Wei in a mixed doubles tie.
“I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, and it’s going to be very exciting.
“I still remember those days when we would team up in training during our days with the national team, ” said Liu Ying.
“He’s such an all-rounded player. Naturally a singles player, he’s just as good in the doubles! I’m sure he has never lost any of his touches and the fans are in for a treat.
“It’s a very rare occasion to see Chong Wei in mixed doubles action.”
In fact, Chong Wei did achieve some success in mixed doubles during his playing days.
He’s a two-time winner with Vivian Hoo at national level tournament, first winning the Selangor Open in 2012 where they defeated the top seed Peng Soon-Liu Ying. They struck again three years later by pipping the Tan Chee Tean and Shevon Lai Jemie to the Perak Open crown.