PETALING JAYA: When Lee Chong Wei was first appointed as the chef de mission (CDM) for the Tokyo Olympics two years ago, he did not envisage that he will be carrying out his duties – from home.
The 38-year-old badminton legend has confirmed that he will not be travelling with the Malaysian contingent to the postponed Games from July 23-Aug 8, but would continue assuming his CDM role remotely.
The decision did not come as a surprise as it was not ideal for him to travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Chong Wei was diagnosed with nose cancer in 2018 and it led to his premature retirement a year later. He has since recovered but does not want to take any risks.
The badminton legend, who is the nation’s most successful Olympian with three silver medals, said he accepted the request from the Youth and Sports Ministry and the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) to remain as the CDM.
“I met Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal (Merican Naina Merican) and OCM president Tan Sri Norza (Zakaria) on Monday and they wanted me to stay on and I accepted it,” said Chong Wei, who competed in Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016 Games.
“I have no qualms about it because I would also like to finish what I started. This is my responsibility and I will still do my best to lead and spur the athletes on in their battles in Tokyo later.”
Chong Wei admitted that it feels incomplete to not being able to be there for the athletes but insists that he can still play his role effectively right from his computer screen.
“Obviously it feels something’s missing to be a CDM during this unprecedented times,” he said.
“By right, when the contingent’s preparations enter the final phase, I was supposed to be busy looking up the athletes at one training base to another. But I can’t do that because of the Covid-19 situation in the country.
“I was an athlete myself and I really can’t imagine what the athletes are going through now. In the past we just had to worry about last minute injuries but now they also need to deal with the risk of infection from the virus.
“Anyway, working from home isn’t something that I’m not familiar with. In fact I have been doing it for the last one year, via Zoom or other online platforms.
“I don’t see any problem for me to do my part virtually.
“We’re living in a different world right now, even the world leaders hold their meetings online.”
In Chong Wei’s absence, OCM secretary-general Datuk Mohd Nazifuddin Najib has been tasked to manage the contingent’s affairs in Tokyo.