Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Extended Adieu

It is quite common that a contestant sings a particular song in a singing contest, and then when he eventually wins it, he gives a repeat performance—an encore, usually on popular request—of the same song at the end of the show.

If the performance is great and well-received, at the end of the show when the curtain falls, the performer sometimes reemerge on stage despite having said his goodbyes earlier. But repeat performances, as are many other things in life, will quickly become stale.

Such is the case of Datuk Lee Chong Wei, the badminton hero of Malaysia. He is the most decorated Olympian of Malaysia, and I'm convinced that it will probably take a long time before there is any other Malaysian who can measure up to his achievements. He had a wonderful run in the sport of badminton for so many years, and there is little doubt that he deserves to be within the category of a badminton legend. He has been, and still is, a class of his own.

The biggest tragedy, however, is that Lee is born in the era of Lin Dan, the giant of an opponent. On paper, Lee is the No. 1 badminton player of the world, but it takes a brave Malaysian to admit that in reality, Lin Dan is obviously a better badminton player. 

During their last encounter, Lee had to retire due to severe cramps. But he was trailing in that rubber set; and against a formidable opponent like Lin Dan, I didn't think the result of that game would be any different had Lee been able to continue playing anyway. Too many people have since spoken of a purported conspiracy in the switching off of the air-conditioner during that game, which eventually affected Lee's game negatively. Much have been said about people behind the scene who planned an evil strategy against Lee. I don't know if there is any truth in that theory. All I can say is that when looking at the record of encounters between these two badminton greats, it is clear that the results lean overwhelmingly in favour of Lin Dan. It is based on that that I say Lin Dan is obviously a better player.

In the sport of badminton, 30 years of age is considered "veteran", i.e. time for retirement from competitive games. Lee, of course, had collected way too many titles, but because of Lin Dan, the World and Olympic titles have been elusive. He's been trying for many years now, but always ended up playing second fiddle to Lin Dan. He planned for, and said his goodbyes, but being the fighter, he craves for the World and Olympic titles.

Despite all that's been said and publicized, I thought the London Olympic Games would be the last I'd see of Lee. I think it would have been still an admirable close to his career. And then the itch for the World title, since Lin Dan had apparently gone into retirement. I thought Lee would eventually get that elusive World title this year. Unfortunately, Lin Dan came back for that title too! 

Shortly after the Olympics, it was announced once again that Lee may want to give it another shot in the next Olympic! The goodbyes that never ends, and he is fast running out of time.

I'm proud of the good Datuk; he has done very well for Malaysia, but some things are not meant to be. I just wonder how much more can he extend his adieu.

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