Friday, February 5, 2010

Past memories haunt Indonesian shuttlers

Women’s badminton has long been a source of frustration for Indonesia.

Ever since Susi Susanti — a 1992 Olympic gold medalist, five-time world champion and four-time All England winner — retired in 1997 after marrying fellow badminton legend Alan Budikusuma, no Indonesian women’s shuttler has managed to fill her shoes.

Mia Audina briefly took Susi’s mantle, winning silver at the 1996 Olympics. However, she switched nationality after marrying Dutch gospel singer Tylio Lobman in March 1999. With the biennial world women’s team championship, the Uber Cup, drawing ever closer, memories of those two continue to haunt the Indonesian national team. Its last Uber Cup titles came in 1994 and 1996, when Susi and Mia were still in the squad.

Since then, Indonesia’s best showings have been runner-up finishes in 1998, 2000 and 2008, with China winning every title since 1998.

“Playing experience, especially in international tournaments, is the most important thing in improving shuttlers. Sadly, our women shuttlers have been lacking that since the early 2000s,” national team head coach Christian Hadinata said. “We still don’t have outstanding shuttlers in world-class competition, but we’re working hard on that.”

Part of the reason for the country’s lagging behind other nations, he said, was a lack of funding from the Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI).

China and Malaysia are absent from the Asian qualifying tournament in Thailand on Feb. 21-28. China, the defending champion, and host Malaysia advanced directly to the finals, which take place May 9-16 in Kuala Lumpur.

Indonesia faces nine other Asian countries in the race for three Uber Cup berths. The fourth-place team can qualify if its world ranking is better than the fourth-best team from European qualifying.

Hong Kong, India, Japan and South Korea pose the toughest tests as they all have players in the world top 20. Indonesia’s best singles shuttler is Adrianti Firdasari at No. 22, while its best doubles pair is ninth-ranked Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari.

“We’ve urged them to give their all if they don’t want to repeat 2006, when Indonesia failed to qualify for the Uber Cup for the first time ever,” women’s singles coach Marleve Mainaky said. -JG.

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