After Olympics setback, disappointed Indonesians look to the future

London 2012 was bitter medicine for fans used to Olympic glory in badminton. But questions are now being asked whether the Indonesian team's failure lies with the athletes, or with the tournament format?

By Juke Carolina for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

August 22, 2012
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In a country where badminton is king, Indonesians have long come to expect world-class performance from stars of the sport. Since 1992, when it was first introduced into the Olympics, Indonesian shuttlers have consistently brought home medals.

  • Indonesia's Greysia Poli (rear right) and Meiliana Jauhari play against South Korean opponents during the 2012 Olympic Games on July 31st. The World Badminton Federation charged the pair and six other athletes with misconduct on August 1st for attempting to throw matches to secure a more favourable spot later in the tournament. [Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters]

    Indonesia's Greysia Poli (rear right) and Meiliana Jauhari play against South Korean opponents during the 2012 Olympic Games on July 31st. The World Badminton Federation charged the pair and six other athletes with misconduct on August 1st for attempting to throw matches to secure a more favourable spot later in the tournament. [Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters]

That changed this summer in London. Not a single badminton player reached the final round, and the women's doubles team was booted from the field for throwing a game in order to avoid playing China in a later round.

"This is the worst Olympics Indonesia has experienced. We were even surpassed by countries such as Japan, India [and] Russia," an administrator of the Badminton Mania Facebook Page, I Ketut Sumiarta Yuda Wiyasa, wrote to Khabar Southeast Asia.

"We all know that those countries rank below us. This truly is a hard slap in the face for Indonesia," Wiyasa said.

In the wake of what some are calling a national sports disaster, many say the fault lies less with the athletes and more with the round-robin format used at the 2012 Games, which in some cases made it advantageous for players to intentionally lose their games.

"As long as we're still using the same system, this incident will reoccur," Icuk Sugiarto, Chairman of the Jakarta Badminton Association and the 1983 Men's Singles World Champion, told Khabar.

"Game rigging appeared because there's a loophole, which can be exploited by athletes. In the future, the Badminton World Federation (BWF), as the highest ranking badminton association, should minimise the potential for cheating by implementing transparent and serious rules," he said.

Prior to 2012, Olympic badminton had employed a knockout stage, with players out of contention after a loss.

"No athlete wants to lose in a preliminary tournament. The new system forced athletes to choose between using a certain strategy to win or to uphold the spirit of competition – even if that would ultimately be to their detriment," Sugiarto said.

Imelda Wiguna, a former Uber Cup and All-England Women's Doubles champion, voiced a similar opinion.

"I'm incredibly disappointed with what happened in London. It was a catastrophe, but we can't blame the players. It was more the system and our preparedness to adapt to the new rules," she told Khabar.

Youth and Sport Minister, Andi Mallarangeng, has said the country is asking the world federation to review the round-robin scheme.

"We respect the BWF's decision but we want it to review the competition system they used," he said in a statement posted on the Indonesian Badminton Association website.

One thing is certain: Indonesians will be pressing hard to ensure their athletes rebound at the next Games, set for 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. National pride is at stake. And so are the feelings of millions in a country where badminton is not simply a sport. For many, it is an obsession.

"I see many people who spend their 'happy-hour' [after work] on the court," former champion Wiguna told Khabar.

In the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, Olympians Susi Susanti and Alan Budikusuma dedicated their gold medals to Indonesia after winning the Women and Men's Singles competitions.

That summer, the Indonesian squad came home to a heroes' welcome, complete with a parade and a formal reception attended by the country's top figures.

Reader Comments
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    • ariffin
      November 27, 2013 @ 04:11:00AM
    • A good article, hopefully it will awaken the spirit of the young generation.

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