October 10, 2023
JAKARTA – Indonesian badminton fans are lamenting the debacle at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, as their team prepares to come home empty-handed. The poor showing certainly casts doubt on the country’s medal prospects in the Paris Olympic Games in less than a year.
This was the first time that Indonesia, once a widely feared badminton powerhouse, failed to win any medals in the sport at the Asian Games in its 61 years of participation. The series of defeats has dashed Indonesia’s hopes of bringing home 12 gold medals from the regional sporting event. With only two days left in the games, Indonesia ranks 13th in the medal tally with 7 gold medals, trailing five places behind ASEAN neighbor Thailand, which has collected 10 golds.
Badminton is one of Indonesia’s most popular sports and a source of national pride. The national team has won laurels at many international events. In the previous editions of the Asian Games, for example, they managed to win at least one gold medal.
Similarly, badminton has always earned Indonesia at least one gold medal in the Olympic Games since the sport became a medal event in 1992.
But on Thursday, the nightmare came. Indonesia’s hopes were alive as its shuttlers reached the quarterfinals in men’s doubles, men’s singles and women’s singles through the talent of Fajar Alfian/M. Rian Ardianto, Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and Gregoria Mariska Tunjung, respectively.
On paper, they could have reasonably expected to win, as they were all playing lower-ranked players. But world rankings did not seem to count this time.
World number one pair Fajar and Rian suffered a shocking 21-18, 21-19 defeat to Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin of Chinese Taipei in a 48-minute battle. Not long after, world number two Anthony lost in straight games – 21-13, 21-17 – to world number eight Li Shi-feng of China. World number seven Gregoria completed the drubbing after crashing out 21-10, 21-19 to world number 21 Aya Ohori of Japan.
Anthony, a bronze medalist in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, had beaten Li in their three previous encounters, but playing before the home crowd appeared to give the Chinese player more confidence on Thursday. Li kept his composure throughout the game to pull off an upset win.
Each of the three matches lasted between 46 and 54 minutes, considered a long and energy-sapping period for badminton. The story could have changed had the Indonesians managed to force a rubber game.
When asked about their losses, they acknowledged feeling pressure, probably because of their superior world rankings.
In the team events, Indonesia performed even worse. Both the men and women’s teams made an early exit last week. The women’s team lost 3-0 to China, while the men’s team lost 3-1 to South Korea.
In the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, host Indonesia collected two golds, two silvers and four bronzes in badminton alone. The gold medals came from Jonatan Christie in men’s singles and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo in men’s doubles. Meanwhile, in the team category, the men took the silver and the women bagged the bronze.
The Asian Games disappointment this year is certainly not the end of the world for Indonesia. The shuttlers have rightfully set their sights on the Olympics, the world’s most prestigious multisports event. However, it is important to take the failure at the Asian Games seriously, as Indonesian badminton players may face the same contenders in Paris next year.
With the Olympics approaching, the Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI) should help the national team rebuild their confidence, rather than playing the blame game. On the bright side, the dissatisfying performance at the Asian Games has taught them many lessons.
We hope the badminton team recovers quickly and returns stronger.