‘Skills win you medals, but attitude wins hearts.’
– Dato’ Lee Chong Wei

Halfway through the drive to my cousin’s home to catch the finals, the iconic hills of Bukit Mertajam (more commonly known as BM) came into the horizon. BM is the place where Dato’ Lee Chong Wei grew up and where his talent was discovered. As I drove past the hills, I can’t help but think, wow, this little town might have its own Olympic Champion tonight!

Fast forward to the match itself. For some reason, I didn’t feel the buzz or the nail-biting nerves like I did while watching Dato’ Lee’s epic and once in a century match-up with Lin Dan two days ago. During his play with Chen Long, despite a good comeback to lead at 11-7 during the first set, if you noticed how Dato’ Lee was already sweating so profusely at that moment (compared to his calm and confident demeanour at the same moment against Lin Dan), you would agree with me, age has really caught up with Dato’ Lee, and looks like Lady Luck will not be smiling to him anymore. We all know what transpired eventually.

Malaysia is a nation where virtually everyone, lest for extraordinary cases, live very comfortably. We are quite a happy nation (despite the politics) and from a certain perspective, a nation pretty easily satisfied. Persisting over an extended period of time and sacrificing everything for an achievement which is seemingly possible at best, is just not in the national DNA. That’s why, in all fairness, Dato’ Lee deserves all the respect: 12 years of physical toil, waking up daily at 5.30 am just to repeat the same old grind, and eventually, enduring the same old deja vu of standing at the right of the podium, with the same old silver medal hanging around his neck, three times in total.

It’s been a roller coaster ride for all Malaysians over the last two days. However, compared to the last two Olympic finals in 2008 and 2012, it feels more like a sigh of relief for each and every one of us this time around. Enough is enough for our Dato’, he has fought so much for us and he deserves to move on with his life now. Surprisingly, there has been an outpour of kind encouragement from our counterparts in China as well this time.

Comparing Malaysia to China, badminton is pretty much the only sport which Malaysia is competent internationally (we only added diving and cycling very recently), whereas it is only one of the many sports which China is competent internationally. Within badminton itself, for men’s single, Malaysia only has Dato’ Lee Chong Wei. As for China, after Lin Dan, it has Chen Long, and this time, as a veteran, Dato’ Lee had to play against them in two straight matches. Only Dato’ Lee himself knows what he has gone through, and who is to belittle him for still finishing with a silver despite three chances? Just like Usain Bolt, he competed in the finals in three straight Olympics, which not even the mighty Lin Dan managed. Kudos, Dato’ Lee, you really needn’t apologise, you are a true Olympic hero.

A lot of musings can be derived from Dato’ Lee’s exceptional but seemingly unfortunate career. However, the most valuable manifestation from Dato’ Lee Chong Wei is perseverance. He has shown us that if you have a goal (or many goals), your sole job is to persevere with extraordinary effort, and we have no right to question the outcome until the hard work has been done. Take a moment and ask ourselves, how many times have we been so ambitious, but lacked the valour to carry through the mission, and have so habitually dismissed hard and boring work as pointless effort. Little did we realise that it is the suffering which takes us closer to our holy grails, and to be truly ambitious is to accept the fact that nothing comes immediately without pain, despite the so-called efficiency of the modern world.

Thank you Dato’ Lee for being such a great role model for modern society, where everyone is just too impatient to succeed. We at Ashlogue sincerely believe that the best of your life still awaits you, albeit beyond your badminton career. Thank you for lifting the heads of Malaysians high, and most importantly, uniting the hearts of 30 million Malaysians. Your Olympic dream lives on, and hopefully we will rejoice in Gold together as a nation very soon.

Thank you, Dato’ Lee Chong Wei, World No. 1, always!

Photo courtesy of EPA, AFP, BERNAMA, NSTP, Channel News Asia

Read on to find out The Bittersweet Moment of LCW & Lin Dan here.