Lee Chong Wei plans to be hands-on as Malaysia's Tokyo 2020 chef-de-mission

Three-time Olympic badminton silver medallist intends to spar with country's shuttlers ahead of Tokyo Games

By ZK Goh

Lee Chong Wei may be retired from playing badminton now, but he won't be taking a back seat after being named as Malaysia's chef-de-mission for Tokyo 2020

No, he's not planning a comeback! The 37-year-old will be picking up his racket again as he intends to join his former teammates in sparring and training sessions leading up to the Games in a hands-on role.

But it's not going to be that easy. "First, I must build up some muscle and further strengthen my fitness," he joked with reporters, according to The Star.

"Skills wise, I never lost any of them!"

The three-time Olympic silver medallist intends to show up to more training sessions at the country's national badminton academy, and says he also wants to help younger athletes in different ways.

"The more important thing I hope to do is to share my past Olympics experience with the players," he told the Star at an exhibition event where he played a match for the first time since his retirement.

"The Olympic Games is massive for any athlete in the world, so building up mental strength is extremely important."

Asked about his life after badminton, Lee said: "I’m happy, but I’m also sad at the same time. Sad because I am not able to play competitive badminton anymore. I miss competing so much.

"Badminton will always have a special place in my heart regardless, that’s my root."

Other sports

The role of a chef-de-mission at an Olympic Games is to oversee a country's entire delegation, which Lee is getting used to.

"I’m also concerned about athletes from other sports," he said, referring to a recent injury suffered by Olympic bronze medallist and Malaysia's top cyclist Azizulhasni Awang.

"I was very worried with Azizul after his accident at the Track World Cup in Melbourne.

"With seven months to go before the Olympics, the last thing we want to hear is our athletes getting injured."

Coaches tribute

Chong Wei has ruled out – at least in the short term – becoming a coach for Malaysia's badminton team.

He was offered the role of national coach in August but turned it down.

However, he has recently been paying tribute to the mentors who worked with him throughout his 19-year career, during which he spent 199 consecutive weeks as world number one.

Just like the Chinese saying, “One day as your teacher, a lifetime as your father”.

—Lee Chong Wei


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