As the 30-day countdown to the Tokyo Olympics began, Malaysian great Lee Chong Wei issued a war cry to the national contingent to “be an eternal Malaysian hero”.
To date, 23 athletes have confirmed their berths to Tokyo, including eight national shuttlers.
Coinciding with the Olympic Day on Wednesday, Lee reminded the Tokyo-bound athletes that 32 million Malaysians would be fully behind them.
The former world number one reflected on his final victory over on-court rival Lin Dan in an epic Rio Olympics semi-final clash that left millions of Malaysians on the edge of their seats.
“I was dead tired at that time in the semis. I thought I would have lost to Lin Dan again. But I told myself not to let down the 32 million prayers back home. Giving me the extra mile to clinch the winning point.
“How the country celebrated was still fresh in my mind. Imagine the national eruption if my tired body didn’t give way and I could beat Chen Long the day after?
“I missed my chance. It’s your turn now, comrades. Remember, everytime you wear the national crest and enter the arena, tell yourself that you are not alone. Behind you are 32 million of our people praying for you, cheering for you! Be a Malaysian hero!” he said in a rallying cry on social media.
Rewinding to that epic 2016 clash, Lee had put everything on the line against Lin Dan, to win 15-21, 21-11, 22-20 and seal one of his biggest career victories.
But that 83-minute battle had completely drained him physically, as Chen Long took advantage to beat the Malaysian 21-18, 21-18 in the final.
Despite that, Lee still remains the country’s most successful Olympian with three silver medals.
Lee is also heading to this Olympics, leading the national contingent in Tokyo as the country’s chef-de-mission.
In Tokyo, the badminton contingent will boast the biggest squad.
Lee Zii Jia, Aaron-Chia Soh Wooi Yik and Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying are all medal contenders, with the latter pair also having won silver in Rio.
Besides badminton, Malaysia are also in contention to earn podium finishes through Azizulhasni Awang (cycling) and the diving contingent consisting of Pandelela Rinong, Nur Dhabitah Sabri, Ng Yan Yee and Leong Mun Yee.