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LEE CHONG WEI: An Olympian who bridged the political divide and blurred racial lines
IN some ways, Datuk Lee Chong Wei missing out on the gold was better for us than if he had won it. Don't get me wrong. I, and presumably millions of other Malaysians, would have loved the gold, of course. An ice-cream company even promised free ice-cream nationwide if he had won, and you know how we love anything that is free.
Yet in his defeat to the Chinese player, Lin Dan, at the men's badminton final at the London Olympics over the weekend, Chong Wei got the best, and in the case of several idiots out there, the worst, out of us.
We learned how to love a guy who gave his best. We learned that we can be proud even if results come short.
As a nation we were transfixed by Chong Wei's pursuit of the gold. My 88-year-old mother, for instance, knew of his injuries and fretted for his wellbeing before the match. Our neighbour Helen made sure that she cancelled all plans for the evening, and I am certain such a scene was repeated many times over nationwide.
Chong Wei was carrying our dreams. In the Olympic Games, an athlete competes for national glory, and the winner's national flag is raised and his national anthem played.
An Olympic gold is an uncharted territory for us. Sure, we have won the Thomas Cup, which is the pinnacle of men's badminton, but an Olympic gold medal continues to elude us.
Oh, how I wish we could have heard the Negaraku played at the Wembley Arena! It would have been a very big deal. I would have sung along from my living room, too. Alas, it did not happen.
A gold medal would have brought about a different kind of jubilation. The fist-pumping we-are-number-one kind of feeling. We would have walked with a strut, our chin cocked rather slightly and a little higher.
It would have been so easy to celebrate a winner, but not a loser.
A silver medal requires some circumspection. It makes us re-look at the thing that we have been made to believe to be true, such as to be a winner we need to be first in everything.
We would have been enamoured with the gold; it would have been the thing we talked most about. With lustre no longer a distraction we now in hindsight see efforts and sacrifices better. Now we appreciate more of Chong Wei's spirit, dedication and commitment, I believe.
His silver makes us prouder, and his apology for failing the country endears him to us. How could it not?
Anyone who saw the game over the weekend, except perhaps for a smattering of idiots, would have seen how he played. We saw how narrowly he lost, and how he could have also won.
It broke our hearts of course, but we would not know how he felt inside. There he was slumped at defeat with the weight of a nation's expectation on his shoulders.
Anyway those critics of him, have they even got off their couches, and asked themselves what they have done for the country lately?
Of course Chong Wei is not a loser in my book, and in many others too, except that of some idiots.
Perhaps they were so into the blame culture that is gaining much currency in our politics these days. Some politicians love the blame game. They blame everyone and never credit anyone, except of course, themselves.
We have been in such a highly-charged political environment for the past few years that Malaysians understand political rivalry well, but many of us cannot understand why no line can be drawn to keep certain subjects out of political bounds.
Should we be surprised when politicians try to make hay from tragedies, deaths, natural disasters and now loss at the Olympics?
But I would like to think that on Sunday evening Chong Wei managed to, at least even for a short while, unite the nation. He bridged the political divide and blurred racial lines.
Ironically, in defeat he has become a national hero. Unfortunately we know what happens to heroes -- everyone wants a piece of them, politicians included.