Datuk Lee Chong Wei – the National Hero of Malaysian Badminton
Whether it’s playing or watching it, there is no secret that Malaysians love their badminton.
Within the sport on a global level, Malaysia has managed to excel relatively well and produced some top-quality players along the way. However, perhaps none other has had a more illustrious career in the game and achieved top recognition status as one famed national athlete in particular – Datuk Lee Chong Wei.
As a former world number one, his heroics at the top of the game and as one of the all-time outstanding badminton talents have earned him many accolades, and the status of a national hero. This week on #JomBelajarwithISKL, let’s take a glance back at how his journey has come to be.
Born on October 21, 1982 (he turned 39 years old just last week!) In Bagan Serai, Perak, Lee Chong Wei actually favored basketball in his early years, though his mother discouraged the activity due to the scorching outdoor heat. Through the influence of his father, he learned to play badminton at the age of eleven and would train every day after school under a local coach. His talent was later discovered by Misbun Sidek, another former leading Malaysian badminton player, who drafted him into the national squad when he was seventeen years old.
His career progression was a steady climb. Lee’s first major career milestone was when he reached his first major tournament final in the Malaysian Open of 2003. The next year, he won his first two titles in the Malaysian Open and the Chinese Taipei Open. From there on, he has added a number of wins and gold medals to his name. In particular, he achieved significant victories at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and the 2010 Commonwealth in Delhi.
Further career heights came around. He won back-to-back Yonex All England Open titles in 2010 and 2011, while 2014 saw him securing a record-breaking tenth Malaysia Open title. He consistently did his country proud as a national sportsman on the world stage, none more so than for being a triple silver medalist at the Olympics Games. For his talents and dominance of the game, it came as no surprise when he was also conferred the honorary title of ‘Datuk’.
Though his commitment to his sport and his country was never in question, Lee Chong Wei announced his retirement from badminton on June 13, 2019, after 19 years following a battle with cancer. Nonetheless, his career as a singles player will remain forever elevated. He was ranked first worldwide for some 349 weeks, including an undisturbed 199-week streak stretching from 21 August 2008 to 14 June 2012. He is also the only Malaysian shuttler yet who has held the number one ranking for more than a year.