KUALA LUMPUR: Badminton ace Lee Chong Wei has no plans to hang up his racquet just yet despite recently undergoing treatment for nose cancer.
The 12-time Malaysian Open champion says he has set his sights on returning to the sport, although his health will be his priority.
Speaking to the media at the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) today, Lee said he had begun light training at home and was hopeful of returning to the court in December.
“I have started light training and am trying to get back into shape. But I must listen to my doctors,” he said.
“For now, health is more important. It is my wish to return to the court by next year, but first I must get back into shape.”
Even in his current condition, Lee said he was confident that he would be able to prepare in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics’ qualification rounds scheduled for April-May next year.
“I have no problems with qualifying, I am confident.
“But for now, I have to gradually get back to normal, without rushing or pushing myself too hard.
“My doctors in Taiwan, four out of seven of them are my fans. They too want me to go back to court as soon as possible,” said Lee.
This is Lee’s first official public appearance after being diagnosed with nose cancer in August.
He underwent treatment in Taiwan and returned to Malaysia recently to rest.
Lee said he preferred not to talk about his treatment as it was a “horrible” experience.
“I went through 33 times of photon therapy.
“When I asked the doctor what I needed to do to get well, he said, I only had one challenge. And that was (to force myself) to eat.
“By the third week of treatment, my throat was sore, I could not swallow anymore. I could not talk either. I could only nod my head whenever the doctors or my family spoke to me.
“But I had to eat in order to gain enough energy to survive the treatments. I could only drink milk. No matter how painful, I had to force myself. I’d be crying each meal time,” he said.
Lee said he had accepted his illness as God’s will and was trying to cope with it as best he could.
“I lost 5kg and lost another 2kg upon completion of my treatment. I lost all my muscles.
“So I’m gradually trying to recover and build my physique in order to be fit enough for intense training,” he said, adding that unlike before, he now feels tired all the time.
Asked whether the doctors had said how long before he would be able to fully recover, Lee said what he was experiencing was different from having an injury.
“This is not an injury, it’s not the same. When I found out, I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what to think.
“I cried for a week. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t stand, couldn’t sleep. Why me? I asked this too when I was diagnosed.
“It will be my fifth Olympics if I make it this time. It is my dream that I want to play in one last Olympics,” he said.
For now, Lee said, he would still have to return to Taiwan for medical checks every three months.
When asked if he was still hopeful of getting a gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Lee said he would try his best.
“I want a gold, whole Malaysia wants a gold.
“The gold medal has always been my dream. But any colour (medal) is okay for me.
“But if I go (to Tokyo), it will be to win. If I’m just going for a holiday, I might as well let the younger players go,” he said.
Lee is currently training three times a week, compared to six previously.
The 36-year-old had hinted at retirement in 2014, after winning the Malaysian Open Super Series tournament.
Two years later in 2016, he said again that he was unlikely to participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after his defeat by China’s Chen Long in the finals in Rio.