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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