Lee Chong Wei, a badminton silver medalist at the last three Olympics, hopes to return to competition next year and at a fifth Olympics in Tokyo after a full recovery from early-stage nose cancer.
“I love badminton. More important is my health,” Lee said in a news conference in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. “Just recover first. How doctors say I can come back to the court, when I come back, I want to come back.”
Lee, 36 and Malaysia’s most decorated Olympian, said he recently finished about two months of treatment in Taiwan and resumed light training.
Malaysia’s badminton federation first said in July that Lee was suffering from a respiratory related disorder, withdrawing from the world championships and Asian Games in July and August. It said in September that Lee was diagnosed with nose cancer.
“When I knew I had cancer, I couldn’t stop crying for nearly a week. … I have never cried so much in my life,” Lee said after 33 rounds of treatment, about five or rounds per week, according to the New Straits Times. “This was the biggest battle of my life. … After three weeks of proton therapy, I found it so hard to eat, and my wife, who had to feed me, cried every time.”
Lee lost the last three Olympic finals to Chinese — to Lin Dan in 2008 and 2012 and Chen Long in 2016. He also lost four straight world championships finals to Lin and Chen from 2011 to 2015. He also served an eight-month steroid ban in 2014 and 2015, stripping his 2014 World silver medal, but a panel said he did not intend to cheat.
“I cannot say 100 percent I can come back,” Lee said. “I must see how my body [feels]. This is my dream, to play last track for me in one and a half years from now.”
Danish and Japanese men won the last two world titles, ending a Chinese streak of 11 straight Olympic and world titles between 2006 and 2016.
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