Lee Chong Wei decided to hang up his badminton racquet after an illustrious career spanning almost two decades.

Accompanied by Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Norza Zakaria, the 36-year-old made the announcement at a press conferenec at Menara KBS in Putrajaya on Thursday.

He had wanted to continue playing until the 2020 Summer Olympics after successfully recovering from nose cancer, even planning to make his comeback at the Malaysian Open earlier this year, but it did not materialise due to health and fitness issues.

His last competitive action was at the Indonesian Open in July last year, which saw him drop to 191st in the world.

Following a recent consultation with his doctor, who advised him not to exert himself, Lee decided to call time on his career, saying it was a tough decision to make.

"[But] my health is more important," he addressed the media during the press conference.

"It was not easy wearing the Jalur Gemilang shirt, going around the world and playing in various tournaments to give the best results to my country.

"There are a lot of people I want to thank [including from] KBS, MSN, ISN and more importantly BAM [where] I had spent 19 years of my life.

"I want to thank my family and my wife, and lastly I want to say thank you to all Malaysians.

"No Malaysians, no Lee Chong Wei for the past 19 years in the national team."

Among his greatest achievements was winning three consecutive silver medals at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, and finishing as runner-up at the World Championships in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

Lee, who set a record of being world number one for 142 consecutive weeks from 2009 to 2012, also won three Commonwealth Games gold medals, one silver and two bronze medals at the Asian Games, and plentiful Badminton World Federation (BWF) titles.

His final win was in front of his home crowd last year as he beat Japanese shuttler Kento Momota for a record 12th Malaysian Open title.