KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysian star Lee Chong Wei yesterday said he plans to return to badminton after successful treatment for nose cancer, insisting he had no intention of retiring.
The ex-world number one said he could resume training as early as next month and was targetting a competitive comeback at the All England Open in March.
“I finished all my treatment… and have recovered very well,” a cheerful and healthy-looking Lee, 36, told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.
“I want to come back to court,” he said, adding, “As of now, I am not retiring.”
The three-time Olympic silver medallist was making his first public appearance since his shock diagnosis was announced in September.
Lee, who returned from treatment in Taiwan last month, said it was his “dream” to play in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which would be his fifth Summer Games.
“I think to qualify (for the Tokyo Olympics) should be no problem for me,” he said, but added that his health was his current priority.
“I just try my very best because I love my country… and I love badminton,” he said.
The player however conceded that if his health does not improve enough, he may have to hang up his racquet, “If my condition is good, I will continue. If I can’t, I will stop.”
Lee, who enjoys superstar status in Malaysia, was diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer, forcing him to pull out of the Asian Games and world championships.
The father of two said that when he found out about the illness, “I was crying for a week, couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep”.
On the advice of his doctors he travelled to Taiwan for treatment, during which he lost five kilos.
“This is the toughest period of my life,” said Lee, who has slipped to eighth in the world rankings. “But I had the support of my loved ones to continue fighting.”
Lee said that he underwent over 30 sessions of treatment at the hands of seven doctors.
He said they have given him a clean bill of health, and he has regained three kilos since coming home.
Nose cancer is perhaps the biggest blow suffered by Lee, who was banned after testing positive for a proscribed anti-inflammatory at the 2014 world championships.
Lee returned to the sport in 2015, after authorities accepted he took the drug inadvertently.
His unsuccessful attempts to capture Malaysia’s first ever Olympic gold medal at three consecutive Summer Games were followed avidly back home, as was his long-running rivalry with Chinese superstar Lin Dan.