Lee retirement leaves ‘Super Dan’ ploughing lonely Olympic furrow

“Lin Dan and myself are rivals on the court, but outside the court we are close friends,” Lee told reporters.

Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan reigned for more than a decade and have only relinquished that hold in recent years as their powers waned.   -  AP

Lee Chong Wei’s tearful retirement was not just a sad conclusion to one of badminton’s great careers, it also ended his remarkable rivalry with China’s Lin Dan.

The duo reigned over the sport for more than a decade and have only relinquished that hold in recent years as their powers waned.

Both are well past their prime, but the Malaysian was forced to call it quits after being diagnosed last year with early stage nose cancer.

READ | Badminton star Lee Chong Wei retires after cancer battle

An emotional Lee, who will be 37 in October, told a press conference on Thursday: “My plan to retire was originally after the (2020) Olympic Games. I made this decision due to my health.”

Lee, a triple Olympic and world silver medallist, had successful medical treatment but he has not trained since April and his hopes of making next summer’s Tokyo Games were remote after his ranking tumbled. He was ranked a lowly 191 in the world this week.

Badminton fans will be denied one last Olympic showdown between Lee and Lin, who is one year younger and almost certain to retire after Tokyo. .

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“Lin Dan and myself are rivals on the court, but outside the court we are close friends,” Lee told reporters.

Lee spent a total of 348 weeks as world number one but never won a world or Olympic title -- primarily after falling short in nail-biting showdowns with his nemesis Lin.

Lin was quick to react to Lee’s announcement, posting on China’s Twitter-like Weibo: “I will be alone on the (badminton) court and no one will accompany me.” Lee wrote in reply: “I hope that you can realise your dreams and reach the Olympics for a fifth time.”