Olympic gold may have eluded Datuk Lee Chong Wei again but he has been hailed a hero by Malaysians who rallied around their champion.
Stunned into silence when China's badminton superstar Lin Dan snatched the gold with a 21-19 score in the rubber set, they cheered themselves hoarse when Chong Wei took the podium as the silver medallist at the London 2012 Olympics.
The scene was a repeat of the Beijing 2008 Olympics when Lin Dan denied Chong Wei the gold medal as he triumphed on home ground.
Chong Wei's grief as he sank to his knees was palpably felt, especially by his elder brother Joe Lee, who cried when the 79-minute tension-filled match ended.
Joe, 38, said he was proud of Chong Wei's performance as the latter had worked hard to bring home Malaysia's first Olympic gold.
“For Malaysia and badminton, he has given so much, sacrificed so much. In the eyes of our family, he is always number one. I think he performed beyond our expectations,” he said at the Golden Road to London event organised by Sapporo at the Geographer Adventure Restaurant and Bistro here.
Joe, who bears a close resemblance to his famous sibling, said he spoke to Chong Wei a few days ago about the ankle injury he suffered during the Thomas Cup in May.
He said Chong Wei told him he still had to take painkillers and had trouble sleeping due to overwhelming pressure.
“I hope when he comes back to Malaysia, he will finally have a chance to rest. He has not had a chance to rest in the past few months,” he said, expressing gratitude that their mother Khor Kim Choi was in London to comfort Chong Wei.
In BUKIT MERTAJAM, Chong Wei's father Lee Ah Chai said his son had made him the proudest father in the world.
The 59-year-old watched his son bag the silver along with some 50 supporters in his hometown in Berapit here.
The group, which included Penang MCA secretary Lau Chiek Tuan, watched the showdown at the Taman Serumpun community hall.
“No Malaysian has ever won two silver medals in the Olympics.
“He still makes us proud and I wish to thank all Malaysians for their support,” he said.
Ah Chai's best friend, Paul Ng, 42, had a tough time holding back his tears.
“It was so close and he put up a good fight until the end. It must have been hard for him,” he said.