Writing this after the nail-biting final last night, I can still feel the pain of losing the gold for Dato’ Lee Chong Wei. Disappointed as it is, we must carry on…although it doesn’t stop us from extending our respect for him.

Datuk Lee Chong Wei, a true champion.
Datuk Lee Chong Wei, a true champion.

Last night’s final dealt a blow to the Malaysian hope for the elusive badminton gold. As one of the top shuttling nations, we still couldn’t slay the mighty dragons.

Watching our boys and girl fighting, at times it is a reminiscent of the daily life we go through on home soil. Despite our earnest efforts to be the best that we can be, Malaysia still lags behind. From fibre connectivity, transportation efficiency, governmental integrity, manufacturing prowess, service supremacy, we’re still dwarfed by the elitists of every sector from Japan to Peru and even belittled by some of our neighbours in Southeast Asia. Malaysia as a nation would still be relegated to second status or worse when international benchmarks are brought to the fore.

Badminton is unfortunately categorically grouped in the same place as well by certain segment of society. But if you are like any other Malaysians growing up in the local school system, it is probably your first love as far as sports is concerned.

Quite unlike the west, this racket game is what we play in and outside of school. We play it at the corridors, we play it on the roads, we play it over the fences, we play it at the concourse of any levelled grounds we can find. We even play it in the middle of the night during the Thomas Cup season. This is a game we play addictively throughout the year and from generation to generation.

The missed gold by the mixed doubles and men’s doubles were no less painful but the deepest cut is from our very own number one singles player. Having clinched the final berth after the epic battle against arch rival Super Dan, the anticipation for gold was both real, and surreal. Could we do it this time? Could he have done it this time?

Datuk Lee Chong Wei, I must confess, I didn’t really follow your badminton career and your world conquering stamina that dominated all except one. But even so, when you’re in Malaysia, you can’t really escape the vibes of badminton. Every now and then there would be someone suggesting or informing that the game is on. Every so often, it would be Lee Chong Wei versus Lin Dan, again and again.

From the little badminton memory that I had, I would impart admiration to those who can really play the game and hold on to the world rankings. But what I couldn’t really comprehend was how our world number one will always find it such an uphill task to overcome his number one bitter rival? Is there something wrong with the system? And if he couldn’t really match the astute badminton artist from China, should he then be called number one?

Admittedly, with the numbers all stacked against Datuk Lee, I found no joy to catch him on telly. Apologies Datuk but I did not understand the passion others have for you. I also couldn’t process their admiration for you despite just being, realistically, a number two. I found no interest whatsoever until this year, and thankfully so.

Unlike the years passed, I made an effort to catch the Olympics after missing them ever since I got busy as an adult. From the best of my memory, the last game was probably when Muhammad Ali lit the torch back in Atlanta’96. 20 years on, here I was together with my family catching the game we’re most familiar with.

Having been snubbed for gold in both the doubles, I found myself rooting for Datuk to secure it. Hopes were high after watching him floor his favourite opponent Lin Dan. But faith and destiny are something else, he succumbed to the younger Chen Long in the final. And with that last encounter, I finally realised why the whole country had been behind a man named Lee Chong Wei.

For your drive, determination and dedication, you deserve every ounce of gold there is on offer. For you to just miss it by a whisker for the third time, it is as unfair as the stars are aligned on any bad day. You played mightily and gave all you could. You jumped, sidestepped, crossed the courts, dropped, smashed, defended when needed, rallied when required but in the end, the game went down in straight sets at 18, three points shy of wrapping up both the games.

Our hearts sank and shattered with you Datuk when the final shuttlecock landed. We couldn’t believe it then and neither could we believe it still 24-hours later. We may not even forget it 24 years after, especially how one brave man took on the whole of China single-handedly for more than a dozen years. For that, you Mr Lee deserves every measure that comes with the Datukship as well as the medals you have both won and missed across championships and tournaments.

As you toiled through the match, we toiled with you. As you laboured through the games, we’ve laboured with you. As you shed tears for the gold that slipped away, our hearts bled with yours. But take heart that after last night, you rank number one in our badminton universe. You showed skills and a valiant heart, never for once revealing your trembling nerves. That’s prowess of a fighting tiger regardless of the opponent.

For those who may be “fooled” by the silver thinking it’s ranked second, let this author convince you – do not be like me in all those passing years investing faith into believing that silver is merely a second ranked position. Because when success is measured with grit, tenacity, discipline and the undying will for a game we all love, a player like Datuk Lee Chong Wei deserves our salute as the world’s undisputed numero uno.

Datuk Lee Chong Wei, You are our Gold!

 

Image: Lee Chong Wei facebook page.

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