Tough Road to Gold for Indonesia Shuttlers
Indonesia’s badminton team arrived in London on Monday night, just hours after its Olympic matchups were set.
The results were not so great, with tough draws almost all around.
Taufik Hidayat, who won gold in Athens in 2004, faces a second-round matchup with China’s Lin Dan, the world No. 1 and defending Olympic champion, if each of them makes it past the group stage.
Simon Santoso, Indonesia’s other men’s singles shuttler, could come up against Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, the world No. 2, in his second-round match.
Even mixed doubles pair Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir, the country’s best hope for a gold, have a tough draw. Their group includes Denmark aces Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Rytter Juhl, world No. 9 pair Lee Yong-dae and Ha Jung-eun of South Korea and India’s Viju D. and Jwala Gutta.
“I was a bit surprised with the draw’s results, as we’ll have to face formidable opponents right from the group stage,” Liliyana said on Tuesday. “But I think there’s no easy opponents in the Olympics, so we’ll just have to be at our best from the start.”
Taufik wasn’t fretting, either.
“Every athlete who comes to London, of course, is ready to win the gold medal,” he told state news agency Antara on Tuesday. “I’m in good condition and ready to give my best for the country.”
These Games will likely be the 30-year-old’s last, as he has been mulling retirement. But like any good athlete, Taufik was confident in his team.
“We’ve all been training hard and we’ll give everything for the medal,” said Taufik, whose Group O includes Spanish shuttler Pablo Abian and the Czech Republic’s Petr Koukal.
Indonesia has won at least one gold medal in every Games since Barcelona 1992, when badminton gained full Olympic status.
The country’s Olympic team chef de mission, Erick Thohir, a media magnate and part-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, said at least one shuttler would come home with a gold.
“I believe the gold medal tradition in badminton will continue,” he said. “If they really want [the gold], I know they will get it.”
Men’s doubles shuttler Mohammad Ahsan said that nothing was impossible, including going home with a gold in his Olympic debut.
“Nobody said it would be easy, but I want the gold medal,” the Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI) website quoted the 25-year-old as saying. “I’m really proud to play in the Olympics, so I’ll use this opportunity as best I can.”
Ahsan and his partner, Bona Septano, will compete in Group B against South Korean duo Ko Sung-hyun and Yoo Yeon-seong, Thai tandem Bodin Issara and Maneepong Jongjit and Polish pair Adam Cwalina and Michal Logosz.
“I’m not afraid of them. I want the gold,” Ahsan said.
In women’s doubles, Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii will start out in Group C against South Koreans Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung, New Zealand’s Leanne Choo and Renuga Veeran and South Africans Michelle Edwards and Annari Viljoen.
“I think we have an easy draw, but we won’t take our opponents lightly,” Meiliana said.
Indonesia’s only shuttler in women’s singles, Adriyanti Firdasari, will face No. 15 seed Petya Nedelcheva of Bulgaria and Belarussian Alesia Zaitsava in Group O.
Tontowi and Liliyana have the added confidence boost of owning favorable records against their group stage opponents. But the victories didn’t come easily.
They beat Laybourn and Rytter Juhl in this year’s All England final, and won over Lee and Ha in the India Open final.
“We’re raring to go,” Liliyana said.
Soldiers raising the Indonesian flag during a welcome ceremony at the Olympic Village in east London on Monday, four days before the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games. AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki