Lee's Tokyo hopes suffer another blow

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's badminton king Lee Chong Wei, under treatment for nose cancer, has withdrawn from next month's Sudirman Cup in China after doctors advised him against "exerting himself", an official said yesterday.

This is the 36-year-old Lee's third aborted attempt at a comeback and it would likely hamper his hopes to play in Tokyo 2020, which would be his fifth Olympic appearance.

He skipped the All England Open last month, this month's Malaysia Open, where he is the defending champion, and now the May 19-26 mixed-team event in Nanning.

He has been sidelined since July last year when he was diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer.

He underwent specialist treatment in Taiwan, but opted not to retire and resumed training in January.

Ng Chin Chai, secretary-general of the Badminton Association of Malaysia, said that the three-time Olympic silver medallist is still receiving treatment when confirming the withdrawal decision.

Asked if the delay could throw Lee's Olympic plans in jeopardy, Ng said: "It may have an effect."

He must make a comeback by Aug 14, or lose the protected ranking of world No. 3, he added.

"After that, his ranking will drop and it would be difficult to get into major competitions," Ng said.

But Lee is not registered for any Badminton World Federation tournaments after May, he revealed.

"We are not pushing him. It is up to Lee to make the call when he wants to return to competition. We will support whatever he decides," Ng said.

Lee's ranking has plunged to 73rd since his illness, with three other Malaysians ranked above him. Countries are able to send a maximum of two singles players to the Olympics, provided they are both in the world's top 16.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2019, with the headline 'Lee's Tokyo hopes suffer another blow'. Print Edition | Subscribe