Malaysia’s badminton king Lee Chong Wei, under treatment for nose cancer, has withdrawn from next month’s Sudirman Cup in China after doctors advised him against “exerting himself”, an official said on Thursday.
The decision to skip the May 19-26 tournament in Nanning marks the third time Lee, 36, fails to make a comeback and will probably dash his hopes to play in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
He had earlier skipped the All England Open in March and the Malaysia Open in April.
Struggling to make a full recovery, the three-time Olympic silver medallist has been on the sidelines since July last year, when he was diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer.
The 36-year-old legendary shuttler underwent a gruelling programme of specialist treatment in Taiwan but opted not to retire and resumed training in January.
“I would like to confirm that Lee Chong Wei will not compete in the Sudirman Cup mixed team event,” Ng Chin Chai, secretary general of the Badminton Association of Malaysia.
“He is on treatment. Lee is advised by his doctor against exerting himself and not to participate in competition yet.”
Lee initially planned to play the All England Open in March but then delayed his return to the Malaysia Open, where he is the defending champion, in early April.
Asked if Lee’s delay in making a comeback could throw his Tokyo 2020 Olympics dream in a jeopardy, Ng said: “It may have an effect.”
Lee must make a comeback by August 14, or lose the protected ranking of World No 3, he said.
“After that his ranking will drop and it would be difficult for Lee to get into major competitions,” Ng said.
In another blow to his hopes of making his fifth Olympic appearance, Ng said Lee is not registered for any Badminton World Federation tournaments after May.
“We are not pushing him. It is up to Lee to make the call when he wants to return to competition,” he said.
Asked if Lee may not return to competition at all, Ng said: “We will support whatever he decides.”
Lee’s ranking has dropped to 73rd in the world since his illness, with three other Malaysians ranked above him.
He will need to begin climbing up the rankings to get a shot at elusive gold as countries are able to send a maximum of two singles players to the Olympics, provided they are both in the world’s top 16.