Lee may put off his return again

Lee Chong Wei is unlikely to defend his Malaysia Open title in early April as he has not recovered physically from his nose-cancer treatment. He will probably target the Sudirman Cup in May for his comeback.
Lee Chong Wei is unlikely to defend his Malaysia Open title in early April as he has not recovered physically from his nose-cancer treatment. He will probably target the Sudirman Cup in May for his comeback.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR • Lee Chong Wei is likely to miss next month's Malaysia Open and delay his comeback from nose cancer for a second time, an official said yesterday, as the badminton great struggles to make a full recovery.

Norza Zakaria, president of the Badminton Association of Malaysia, warned fans to "lower their expectations" for the 36-year-old former world No. 1.

The three-time Olympic silver medallist has been on the sidelines since July last year, when he was diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer.

He underwent a gruelling programme of specialist treatment in Taiwan but opted not to retire and resumed training in January.

Lee originally planned to play the All England Open this month but then delayed his return to the Malaysia Open, where he is the defending champion, in early April.

But Norza said Lee looked likely to miss his home tournament and was now targeting the Sudirman Cup mixed-team event in Nanning, China in May.

"The probability of him not playing in the Malaysia Open is very high," he said. "I don't think that he is fully recovered physically. He needs to train properly because Malaysia Open is a very premier event.

"Fans should lower their expectations. But I am not his doctor, so I shouldn't confirm anything, but based on my conversation with him, we shouldn't have such high expectations on him making a return next month.

"His health is his priority and he will be flying to Taiwan next week to meet his doctor. We will know by Tuesday if he can play at the Malaysia Open or not."

Lee had previously said he needs to get the all-clear from his doctors before returning to competitive play. He still hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics but qualifying looks increasingly tough as other younger Malaysian players are ranked above him.

"Our target is to have Chong Wei prepared for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, so we should allow him that time to make a full recovery," Norza added.

Nose cancer is perhaps the biggest blow suffered by Lee, who was banned after testing positive for a proscribed anti-inflammatory at the 2014 World Championships.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2019, with the headline 'Lee may put off his return again'. Print Edition | Subscribe