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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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India badminton star is world’s top paid female athlete outside tennis

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Pusarla Venkata Sindhu of India— known as PV — turned a silver medal two years ago in badminton at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics into millions of dollars in endorsements.

She’s the favorite to win gold at the Asian Games, though even that result may not yield the same windfall.

The magazine Forbes lists her as the seventh highest-earning female athlete in the world with an income of about $8.5 million — more than 90 percent from endorsements. And almost all from her success in Brazil.

She’s second at home in sports earnings only to India cricket captain Virat Kohli.

Tennis star Serena Williams headed the Forbes list of top earners in women’s sports, but Sindhu is ranked higher than the No. 1-ranked player on the WTA Tour, Simona Halep of Romania.

“To be in the list is a great feeling because everybody compares you with other players — the big shots,” she said Saturday after beating Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia 21-12, 21-15 to reach the quarterfinals.

“Many are coming to me saying now you are a millionaire,” she said, breaking into a nervous laugh. She joked that she now ranks with “the legends.”

India has a dearth of female sports stars, so Sindhu’s success has triggered lots of interest from sponsors.

Another factor driving her marketability is India’s previous lack of success in the Olympics.

India has won only one Olympic gold medal in an individual sport. That was with shooter Abhinav Bindra in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The other eight gold medals all came in field hockey, a team event.

India won only two medals in Rio — Sindhu’s silver and Sakshi Malik’s bronze in women’s freestyle wrestling.

Saina Nehwal, a former No. 1-ranked badminton player, cheered Sindhu’s ascent.

“I’m happy with what I’m earning, and she is happy with what she’s earning,” Nehwal said.

Sindhu knows she’s growing the game at home.

“Badminton as a sport has been increasing a lot,” Sindhu said. “Everybody wants to play badminton right now in India.”

There are a million reasons.

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