Lee Chong Wei, the man who brought a divided nation together

Imagine the weight of carrying the hopes of 26 million people on your shoulders, with no one to share the load but yourself. Imagine knowing that this is most likely your very last shot at Olympic gold, having come ever so close, not once, but twice. Imagine the physical and mental drain, less than 24 hours after an epic final showdown with your biggest and most respected nemesis.

Those were the odds that Lee Chong Wei was up against today at the Men’s ¬†Singles Olympic Finals. All that, before adding in the actual opponent standing in his way, the 6 foot 2 Chen Long, China’s ready made successor to the greatest badminton champion ever had, Lin Dan. Six years younger, six inches taller, with the energy of youth on his side.

Don’t mean to make excuses for Chong Wei, but those odds would have been scared off any lesser man. But Chong Wei put up whatever fight he had left in him, after more than a decade of blood, sweat and tears, he would give every ounce of blood and sweat he had left in him, to claim that gold that had been missing from his long list of accolades. Not just for himself, but for the 26 million standing behind him.

It’s been a rough couple of years for Malaysia as a country. Race, religion and politics has divided what was one a peaceful and harmonious nation. As a Malaysian, I can honestly say that never in my lifetime have I seen the nation standing united in this fashion behind one individual, not any politician, royalty or celebrity. All races, generations and religions, standing together in the outdoors, cheering for a national hero. You might have to go back to our Independence Day to find the last time the entire nation was this united behind a single person. We’ve had other great athletes for sure, but none have captured the hearts and carried the hopes of the whole nation quite like this guy. None who have sustained such an extended period of excellence and dominance in his sport. Every time he goes up against China, Indonesia or Korea it is a case of David vs Goliath, the relatively small country of Malaysia versus the giants of Asia. That one man has surfaced from this nation who can beat the greatest from nations with a billion people, that itself brings us pride, along with hope for the future.

This is likely his last ever Olympics, and perhaps even his final match for his country, if he decides to call it a day. It wasn’t the fairy tale ending 26 million people had dreamt about last night, no. But if this is the final chapter, it is an epic story that every Malaysian of this generation will be telling their grandchildren.And that, we hope, will inspire the generation who will, eventually, bring home to Malaysia it’s first Olympic gold medal. #rio2016 #badminton #olympics #dlcw



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