Whatever is the reason for the one-sided performance during the final, be it a poor game plan, a poor execution of a proper game plan, the tidal pressure wave of the home crowd, the burden of expectation, the fear of losing, or the overwhelming significance of the event, frankly, I could not suppress my disappointment from our team’s failure in overcoming pressures by preparing for the expected influence of pressures on the strength of Lee Chong Wei’s strokes, his smashes, or net plays. It’s a well-known fact that mental strength of our athletes is our main stumbling block in major competitions. And I was disappointed after all these years, it remains a major stumbling block. But is Lee Chong Wei a Zero because of the defeat?
He would be if, going into the final match, his target was a silver medal.
But his pensive expression, his uneasy hand movement, his almost-embarrassed body language, and his fighting back his tears, comforted us that he did try to go for the ultimate glory. He did his best under the circumstances. Though he knew his best was not enough. He was disappointed, or maybe even furious, at himself. As he knew he had failed his countrymen, not in losing the match, but in not giving a credible performance.
Standing on the right of Lin Dan on the podium, watching our national flag being raised for the first time after a long 12 years, however disappointed he was, he should be proud of himself, as all Malaysians were proud of him, for giving his best and putting Malaysia back on the medal tally once again.
(In the mean time, spare a thought though for the man standing on Lin Dan’s left, Chen Jin, the bronze medalist. He didn’t even get a chance to go all out for glory in his semi-final match against Lin Dan.)
So, a highly precious lesson learnt. Olympic being a sport event that comes around only once every four years, few would have the experience of participating in the games. The fact that peak period of athletes usually lasts less than ten years, fewer still would have the opportunity to be in form at the right time and play in a final. But the highly coveted experience would mean nothing if he’s satisfied with the silver medal, and do not use this agonizing defeat, and the disappointment of Malaysians as a spring board to reach for higher glory and to transcend our disappointment into euphoria.
So is he a Zero, or a Hero?
Well, it’s not time to tell yet. Being 26 years old, he might not be at his peak, and London Olympics 2012 is still a very probable target. If he can use this precious experience to strengthen his next quest for sport achievement and bring pride to the nation, then he had not failed us Malaysians, who are behind him all the way.
So, Zero or Hero? Lee Chong Wei, it's in your hands!