Lee Chong Wei

AP

Lee Chong Wei, Malaysian badminton star, retires after return bid from cancer

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Lee Chong Wei, a badminton star and Malaysia’s most decorated Olympian, ended a return bid from nose cancer and announced his retirement Thursday.

Lee, a 36-year-old, three-time Olympic silver medalist, had announced in November that he wanted to return to competition from early-stage nose cancer in 2019 and go for the Tokyo Olympics. But a more recent scan led a doctor to tell Lee that he risked recurrence if he continued to train.

“I was at loss,” was posted on Lee’s social media. “I thought, ‘How am I supposed to hang up my racket after nearly twenty years of competitive badminton? How about my Olympic dreams?'”

Lee tearfully said he was quitting in a press conference Thursday.

“With a heavy heart, I have to announce that I am retiring as health is more important,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

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 feared of retiring with regrets,” Lee said on Facebook. “I was scared of not delivering that elusive Olympic gold for Malaysia. So when I was cleared of cancer, I took up my racquet and trained once again.”

Lin, who has a 28-12 record against Lee, reacted on Weibo to his long-time friend’s retirement.

“I am alone, now that there’s no one to accompany me on the court,” Lin wrote, adding a video of a song titled, “My friend, don’t cry.”

Asked if he had any regrets, Lee said: “I do regret 100 percent that I could not win a gold (at the Olympics and worlds). Now I cannot get to 2020, but I hope another Malaysian can and I will help towards that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Lee Chong Wei, Malaysian badminton star, eyes return from nose cancer

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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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