It’s been an emotional week, hasn’t it? We stood together, cheered, and eventually cried our hearts out for the Malaysian contingent at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Now that it has ended, we’re slowly trying to crawl back into our usual lives. But for our athletes, the pain of coming so close, lives on.
Especially in Dato’ Lee Chong Wei’s case. Rio 2016 was probably his final Olympic Games, which also means his dreams of winning the coveted gold medal is over. He pushed, he worked and he battled. But even that was not enough on the night, as Chen Long ran rampant to win the gold in style.
But as Malaysians, we’ve opted to put everything aside his silver medal, and celebrate Chong Wei for the man he is. Over the years, he has won a myriad of international titles, and delighted us with world-class performances on the international stage. But more importantly, and he’s done so many things for Malaysia. And as we seek to put his achievements aside and celebrate Chong Wei for the man he is, here are five things Dato’ Lee Chong Wei taught us throughout his career.
Brought us all together, despite our differences
Some days, it almost seems like unity is a long-distant dream for any Malaysian – with all the racial issues we read on newspapers and news portals every day. And under such circumstances, it’s easy to trivialise the actual value of our unity, and jump on the ‘selfish’ bandwagon. But Chong Wei, every single time he competes in an international tournament, reminds us that there is more to us than meets the eye. Even earlier this week, he showed us that we’re more than capable of putting our racial, political and religious differences aside, to unite under one banner and support each other as a community. These reminders are worth every penny available out there and it’ll go a long way in helping us survive every battle there is to face, as a community.
Try, try, try again
Perhaps the biggest thing Dato’ Lee Chong Wei did was show us how far someone can go if they keep on believing in their dreams. We knew he always wanted to win the Olympic gold medal. He tried and failed in 2008. Four years later, he came very close again, only for Lin Dan’s late surge to deny him the coveted gold. But instead of quitting, Chong Wei constantly told himself to not lose hope, which allowed him to muster a third attempt in Rio. It didn’t happen, but Chong Wei did more than enough to show us how far hope and perseverance can bring someone, be it an athlete, or a regular human being.
Setbacks shouldn’t make you quit
It’s easy to forget that Chong Wei has had to sacrifice a lot to even get to Rio 2016 in the first place. He was suspended for 8 months after failing a doping test in 2014 and it would have been easy for him to quit at that point. The suspension instantly jeopardized his Rio hopes and hurt his image on the international scene. But he persevered. He continued training throughout that 8 months, never stopped preparing for his comeback. And when the suspension was over, Chong Wei went at it, competition after competition, knowing that he needed to collect precious points and climb up the world ranking in order to make it to Rio. In April 2015, Chong Wei was ranked 180th in the world. Within six months, Chong Wei bounced back to secure 3rd spot on the rankings. That speaks volume about his character and mentality.
Winning isn’t everything
Don’t get me wrong, Chong Wei is incredibly competitive. You have to be competitive, to stay on top of the sport, for as long as he’s done. That said, Chong Wei also showed us that winning isn’t the ultimate end-goal of everything you do in life. When he wins, he celebrates. But when he loses, you’d never see Chong Wei unleashing a storm on the sidelines. You’d never see Chong Wei skipping past a reporter or violently rejecting an interview. He’s an ecstatic winner, but at the same time, a gracious loser. Even if it’s his third attempt at winning an Olympic gold medal, Chong Wei never allows frustration to get the better of him. That explains the friendship he’s developed with Lin Dan, despite their incredible rivalry on the court.
Humility goes a long way in building success
Think about it. He’s arguably the greatest badminton player Malaysia has ever seen, and the amount of recognition he receives all around the globe is incredible. Financially, let’s just say Chong Wei leads a comfortable life. But you’d never see him showboating or showcasing any bit of ‘arrogance’. In every interview, in every public appearance, Chong Wei never fails to be approachable and humble. There are some occassional outbursts, but otherwise, Chong Wei is the model professional – someone every young athlete would love to look up to. Take his final bout against Chen Long for example. He clinched his third Olympic silver medal – which is undoubtedly an impeccable feat. Even then, Chong Wei was incredibly apologetic during the post-match interview. He apologized for his failure in bringing home the gold medal. It’s attributes like these that endear him to the people of Malaysia.