Badminton legend Lee announces retirement

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Malaysia's badminton player Lee Chong Wei (R) reacts during a news conference to announce his retirement in Putrajaya, Malaysia, June 13, 2019. (Xinhua/Chong Voon Chung)

Malaysian badminton legend Lee Chong Wei announced his retirement from badminton citing health reasons on Thursday, ending a near 20-year professional career since making his professional debut in 2000.

Speaking at a press conference at the Youth and Sports Ministry here, Lee said the decision was a difficult one which he had struggled with, but ultimately he and his family had decided that retirement was the best course of action following nose cancer last year.

"Today everyone knows more or less my intention for calling this press conference. I would like to announce that I'm retiring from the sport after 19 years," he said.

The "tough decision" was made following the doctors suggested he take more rest instead of stepping up training to return to competitions, he explained.

The 36-year old choked multiple times as he spoke and had to pause to control his emotion at one point.

He thanked all Malaysians for their support, specifically naming the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), his coaches and the government for making the effort to continuously support him through the ups and downs of his career and through his illness.

"I want to thank the Malaysian's who always supported me as I competed for the country. It was not easy for me to wear the national sports uniform, the flag to many places for tournaments. I am proud to have done my best for my country," he said.

Asked if he would consider coaching for the national team, Lee said he would prioritize his recovery before discussing it with BAM but added: "If Malaysia needs my help, 100 percent I will help."

Lee was first diagnosed with early stage nose cancer last year but returned to training later as he tried to make it to the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. But after consulting his doctor, family members and the ministry, he decided to announce his retirement, being unable to perform in high intensity training.

Despite the fact he never won Malaysia's first Olympic gold or a world championship title, the three-time Olympic silver medalist has left the game as a giant, having held the World No. 1 spot for six consecutive years, amassing a total of 705 wins and 69 titles over his 19-year career.

Lee's epic competition with Lin Dan of China has become legend of the sport, with 40 matches throughout the career including three at the Olympics.

"Like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in tennis who are always competing, we have Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei in badminton," he said. "If there's no Lin Dan, there will not be the Lee Chong Wei today," he told Xinhua.

Lee spoke highly for his nemesis and wish the 35-year-old Lin all the best in the quest for the Tokyo Olympic Games. "We may no longer be opponents, but we are still good friends. I am looking forward seeing him play at the Tokyo Olympics," he said.

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