RI’s worst history in Thomas/Uber Cup: what went wrong

image source: edwindianto.wordpress.com

Indonesia’s defeats against Japan in the quarterfinal games of Thomas and Uber Cup last week have slammed our pride in the popular sporting event. This should not only pose as a wake-up call but more as an alarming one.

Let us set aside our dreams to overtake China as a badminton giant. That will be too much for the moment as Japan, Malaysia, and Denmark are running faster that we thought. I am not just saying. Just look at how Japanese shuttlers crashed the red-and-white squad in the tournament last week in Wuhan, China. Indonesians were stopped in the quarterfinal after losing 2-3 for both the Thomas and Uber Cup teams. Prior to that, they lost 5-0 from China respectively.

I am not a badminton observer. I am a badminton lover who have spent countless hours since 1990s watching local badminton heroes competing in international tournaments. I used to turn a blind eye on those who give fiery comments on poor badminton players. But watching last week’s badminton matches, I can’t agree more on them. And now I am furious.

Indonesia’s Thomas Cup team scores the worst ever record since its first participation in 1958. Underdog Japan’s Thomas Cup unexpectedly beat Indonesia’s squad 3-2 as the Sakura country took points from men doubles Oriyasu Hirata/Hirokatsu Hashimoto, men singles Kenichi Tago and Takeda Ueda.

Indonesia grabs Thomas Cup 13 times, making it as the country with most titles with China and Malaysia come second and third, respectively. Indonesia’s male team achieves the last title in the tournament in 2002. While Japan has yet to win any titles in this division.

In Uber Cup division, female Japanese athletes dashed Indonesians 3-2 following the victories from women singles Sayaka Sato and Minatsu Mitani and women doubles Fujii Mizuki/Kakiiwa Reika.

Japan’s Uber team has better record than their male fellows. In total, it has won the trophy five times with the first triumph came in 1966. The country’s badminton legacy has come into a life again after their impressive performance against Indonesia.

Indonesia’s female team itself has participated in the tournament since 1963 with the 1996 title becomes the last Cup it lifts.

Denmark’s darling Peter Gade — image source: newthebestfootball.blogspot.com

I was actually not surprised should Indonesia’s male and female teams fail to win the Thomas and Uber Cups again given their worsening performances over the past years. But their defeats against Japan’s teams were beyond my expectations. Shocking and painful. I tolerated they lost to China or South Korea but not Japan. I highly applauded Japanese women players who have amazing fighting spirits, something Indonesians need to learn from.

Badminton fans across Indonesia already complain about the declining performances of the country’s shuttlers. Years have passed since they strongly ask for the country’s badminton association or Persatuan Bulutangkis Indonesia or PBSI to start regeneration process. But no luck for the time being. And I remind the association to wake up and immediately leave those heyday back in 1990s.

Regeneration is the key for the awakening of the local sport. Unfortunately, Indonesia is still way behind other countries. When China was preparing junior men singles, like Xia Xuanze, Indonesia was still counting on old names like Joko Supriyanto and Hendrawan. Chinese players variously come up in the screen. They do have a lot of stocks of wonderful players. In 1990s, I enjoyed the performance of Dong Jiong and Sun Jun, though they were still below Indonesians Alan Budikusuma or Ardi B. Wiranata.

Dong Jiong — image source: badmintoncn.com

Not long after that, new names like Xia Xuanze and Chen Hong, replaced their seniors while Indonesia still stuck with veteran players. In the middle of 2000, China had powerful athletes like Lin Dan, Chen Jin, and Bao Cun Lai, who rein over world tournaments, with only Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei as the strongest opponent. And Indonesia is way behind them with young stars, like Tommy Sugiarto, Simon Santosa, and Dionysius Rumbaka. Worse, 30-years old Taufik Hidayat still plays for Indonesia.

In female division, things get worse than male’s. Ever since Susi Susanti retires in 1997, I have been longing for a bright woman single player that will resume her legacy. Back then, Indonesia had Mia Audina but she decides to play for the Netherland following her marriage with a Dutch. Susanti’s successors – Maria Kristin and Ardianti Firdasari — has yet to yield in prestigious titles after their remarkable contributions in the 2008 Uber Cup. Along with their team mates, both players made their way to the final round after the 1996 final in Hong Kong. Indonesia now has Maria Febe Kusumastuti and Lindaweni Faretri, both of whom are 22 years old. Looking at how Lindaweni was defeated by Japan’s Mitani, mentality is inevitably a crucial factor. While China, it has endless lists of talented players, as always. After Ye Zhaoying, they have Gong Zhichao, Zhang Ning, Gong Ruina, Wang Chen, Xie Xingfang, and current stars Wang Yihan and Wang Xin.

Ye Zhaoying — image source: wdict.net

In women and men’s doubles division, regeneration is much better. Indonesia still has Markis Kido/Hendra Setiawan, the 2008 Olympic gold medalists, who continue gold medal traditions in the Olympic Games after Ricky Subagja/Rexy Mainaki and Candra Wijaya/Tony Gunawan. Following Kido/Setiawan’s declining performances, other men doubles, like Alvent Yulianto, Mohammad Ahsan, and Bona Septano, need to catch up with strong opponents from South Korea and China.

Although I hardly know about Indonesia’s strength in women doubles division, I was very impressed with the spirit and solidity of young pairs Anneke Feinya Agustin/ Nitya Krishinda Maheswari in the quarterfinal of Uber Cup last week. They booked an easy win against Japan’s Naito Mami/Matsuo Shizuka with 21-11 21-17. I wish they can shine amid tight competition with Chinese and South Korean players. Again, back then, my favorite women doubles were Eliza Nathanael/Zelin Resiana, who brought home the 1996 Uber Cup, though they were well below China’s Gu Jun/Ge Fei.

One pair that arouses local’s hope is mixed doubles Lilyana Natsir/Tantowi, who surprisingly won this year’s All England. Indonesia is pinning its hopes on the pair to grab one gold medal in the 2012 Olympics Games in London, England. I think mixed doubles becomes more attractive as I saw from predecessor’s pairs, like Minarti Timur/Tri Kusharyanto in 1990s.

Minarti Timur — image source: jvc-abc.com

Trikus Haryanto — image source: naouribie.blogspot.com

During regeneration process, all executives of the association has to include psychological training for player’s mental power. Surely, they will have extra motivation to bring the best for Indonesia. A sense of belonging can be a crucial factor that will encourage players to not give up even if rivals are ahead of them. In sport, I believe motivation is like a magical element that may overturn impossible things.

I know those are all mere words. Easier said than done. And of course, I can’t coach local players to be incredible ones because I know almost nothing about technical things and so forth. But at least, I voice my opinions and never stop supporting them. Through the ups and downs of the Indonesia’s badminton, I will keep watching all players in best ways that I can. Fighting Indonesia!

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