Malaysians joined in an outpouring of sympathy Monday for badminton star Lee Chong Wei after his heart-breaking loss in the London Games final extended the nation's wait for a first Olympic gold.
Malaysia has now accumulated five Olympic medals since 1964, but never gold, and Lee, for a long time the world number one, was again its greatest hope to finally bring that drought to a glorious end.
A visibly crushed Lee, 29, apologised to his countrymen following his tight loss Sunday to his long-time nemesis Chinese star Lin Dan -- the second straight time Lin beat Lee in the final for Olympic gold.
"Thank you everyone, I'm sorry I could not get gold," he tweeted.
Malaysians took to Twitter, Facebook and other social media to praise Lee despite the crushing disappointment.
"Chong Wei's defeat to Lin Dan last night was more heart-breaking than breaking up with any of my ex-girlfriends," one Twitter user wrote.
Another of the many supportive tweets said: "We understand the pressure the nation weigh on your shoulder. You're already a hero and you did us proud."
For a time, #ThankYouLeeChongWei was among the top-trending hash tags on Twitter.
Lee is Malaysia's most successful Olympian with two silver medals, from the Beijing and London Olympics, and is the biggest sports star in a country where badminton is popular.
Malaysians gathered in droves, at home and at outdoor big screens, to watch a gripping match that Lin -- widely regarded as the best player of all time -- narrowly won 15-21, 21-10, 21-19.
A man who watched the match at a restaurant in the state of Sarawak collapsed and died after Lin won, The Star newspaper reported, quoting local police.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose wife Rosmah Mansor attended the match, tweeted after the contest: "(Lee Chong Wei) gave his best tonight against Lin Dan. All Malaysians are very proud of you!"
Lee, who almost missed the Games because of an ankle injury, won the first game but a number of mistakes handed the momentum to Lin, who capitalised with his magnificent range of strokes.
Lee had hinted before London that he may retire afterwards.
But he was quoted by Malaysian media after the match saying he "will go on for at least two more years" to seek a first Asian Games gold and defend his Commonwealth Games title in 2014.
The reports made no mention of any plans for the 2016 Olympics.