Tue, 04 Feb 2003

Coach has little hope for women's squad

Musthofid, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia looks set for yet another grueling challenge in its attempt to win the Sudirman Cup, the world mixed team championship that it won the first time it was held in 1989 but which has since evaded its grasp.

The difficulty of the mission stems from the fact that Indonesia, as admitted by coach Ivanna Lie, is suffering from serious deficiencies in the women's division.

The Sudirman Cup, named after an Indonesian badminton figure, is played every two years with the format consisting of men's singles, men's doubles, women's singles, women's doubles and mixed doubles.

The upcoming edition will be held in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, from March 18 to March 23.

However, although the Indonesian team will feature its 2002 Thomas Cup-winning squad, the prospects seem gloomy due to the weakness of the women's division.

"It will definitely be hard work for the women. Their chances of contributing points for the team will be very slim," Ivanna said during a one-day seminar, which was co-organized by TV7 and Bola, at the Santika Hotel here on Monday.

"Hopes for victories will definitely hinge on the men's singles, doubles and mixed doubles," she admitted.

For the Sudirman Cup, Ivanna said, Indonesia is preparing eight women's players, only two of whom are seniors. They are Yuli Marfuah and Dian Novita Sari.

These two are the only seniors remaining in the Cipayung Training Center following the retirement of ten players: Minarti Timur, Lidya Djaelawijaya, Indarti Isolina, Deyana Lomban, Cindana Hartono, Ellen Angelina, Atu Rosalina, Diah Novita, Rosie Rosiani and Ernita.

They left the training center along with five men's players last week in a ceremony that also marked the arrival of 28 new young recruits.

Indonesian women's badminton has been struggling for success on the world stage since the retirement of Susi Susanti and the resignation of Mia Audina.

Susi and Mia secured the Uber Cup trophy for Indonesia in 1994. Mia now lives and plays for the Netherlands.

In their absence, the women suffered their worst ever performance when they failed to qualify for the semifinals at the 2002 Uber Cup in China. Meanwhile, their male compatriots cruised to five consecutive Thomas Cup titles.

Even while being left far behind by their perennial rivals from China, Korea and Denmark, the Indonesian women now have to face challenges from upcoming powers Japan, the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Thailand.

"Participating in three or four-star tournaments, our players, who have dropped in the rankings, now have to go through the qualification rounds in which they have to play two or three matches.

"They seem to be already drained of energy by the time they get to the main round. Most of them have gone down in the early stages in recent tournaments," she added.