SINGAPORE: Malaysian badminton star Lee Chong Wei apologised to his country and fans on social media on Thursday (Jun 13) for letting them down and failing to deliver an Olympic gold, shortly after announcing his retirement earlier in the day.
"I'm sorry that I couldn’t make it to Tokyo this time around. And I’m sorry I didn’t deliver an Olympic gold," said the three-time Olympic silver medallist on Twitter.
"But I know I’ve no regrets as I’ve tried my best. My very best. Thank you very much to all of you. Lee Chong Wei signing out," he continued.
The 36-year-old, who finished second in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Games, was aiming to clinch Malaysia's first Olympic gold.
He was diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer last year, and resumed training in January after intensive treatment in Taiwan.
However, a return to full fitness eluded him and, with his hopes of reaching next year's Olympics slipping away, Lee tearfully announced his retirement on Thursday.
"I want to apologise because I cannot afford to play badminton anymore for the country and for all of you," Lee wrote in Malay on Instagram.
"The doctor advised me that the risk of the cancer returning is high if I continue to train with the same intensity as before," he said.
He acknowledged he did not achieve his aim of playing in next year's Olympic Games, but said he would leave the badminton arena "with no regrets".
"From when I was young, my dream was to represent this country and it feels like I have already succeeded.
"The feeling of standing on the podium, seeing the flag being raised and hearing the country's song will be missed," he said.
The badminton great assured fans not to worry about his retirement as there was a strong and capable lineup to succeed him.
"Thank you friends. I apologise for any shortcomings in my sporting career.
"It is time for this old horse to rest. Thank you."
Lee's decision to retire ends his rivalry with China's Lin Dan, his nemesis in four world and Olympic finals.
Shortly after Lee's announcement, Lin Dan shared a song "Don't Cry, Friend" on his Weibo page.
He wrote: "The next time I take to the court, there'll be no one to accompany me."
Lin Dan had in recent months urged the Malaysian to put his health first instead of resuming his career.