Malaysian former badminton men's singles world No. 1 and two-time Olympic silver medalist Lee Chong Wei announced his retirement at a press conference Thursday, saying he was following his doctors' advice after undergoing treatment for nose cancer.
"It is a very tough decision. I took the decision after my last medical check-up. I talked it over with my wife and with my doctors and decided to announce it after Hari Raya (as the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha is known in Malaysia). Badminton is my life. Now my health is the priority," the Badminton World Federation (BWF), the sport's international governing body, quoted Lee as saying at the press conference.
The 1.72-meter (5-foot-7 1/2) Lee - who compensated for his short stature with phenomenal skill - is widely regarded as one of the greatest men's singles players of all time, having won 47 World Superseries/World Tour titles, two Badminton Asia Championships golds and four All England Open titles.
He also had stellar results at badminton's most prestigious events - the Olympic Games and World Championships - although he suffered a series of heartbreaking losses to China's greatest players in big finals.
Lee, whose ranking had slipped to No. 191 due to his limited tournament play over the past year, had been hoping for a fairytale ending to his career at next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo, but it was not to be.
"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. 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 wrote on Twitter.
Lee's career coincided with that of the man widely regarded as badminton's greatest-ever men's singles player, 35-year-old Chinese superstar Lin Dan, who handily won their first major final 21-12, 21-18 at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Lee then lost three agonizingly close major finals against Lin - two in London at the 2011 World Championships and the 2012 Summer Olympics and a third at the 2013 World Championships in Guangzhou, China.
When Lin's dominance started to wane, another great Chinese player - Chen Long - emerged and defeated Lee at the 2014 and 2015 World Championships finals and in the 2016 gold-medal match at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (after Lee had defeated Lin in the semifinals).
Although Lee was unable to hoist the trophy at badminton's two biggest events, his four titles at the prestigious All England Open are among the accomplishments that cement his place as one of his sport's great champions.
Lee still was going strong in 2018 shortly before his nose cancer diagnosis, beating Japanese world No. 1 Kento Momota in a thrilling match in the Malaysia Open final in late June.
Momota then got revenge on his idol a week later in the Indonesian Open semifinals, a contest that proved to be Lee's last official match.
The BWF's Web site quoted Malaysia's youth and sports minister, Syed Saddiq, as saying that Lee is "a hero to all Malaysians of all ethnicities and religions" and that he would be Chef-de-Mission for the Asian nation's contingent at the Tokyo Olympics.