Sun, 02 Oct 1994

Indonesia sets badminton standard.

By Dwiatmanta

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia may remain a small dot on the world's sports map, but badminton has at least given it distinction.

All the major titles, including a treble of Olympic gold medals, world championship laurels, and the Thomas and Uber Cups, have adorned the cabinet of the Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI) in the past three years. The dominance is so complete that no one dares to bet on a rest-of-the-world team in a duel against Indonesia's star-studded shuttlers.

"Not only does badminton have a grass roots following among the people here, but Indonesia is also the best in the world at cultivating badminton talent," asserts Icuk Sugiarto, a former world champion who now coaches 100 young shuttlers at the Pelita Jaya club in West Jakarta. Lili Tampi, Indonesia's world-class women's doubles specialist, was groomed at the club.

Villagers hitting a shuttlecock here and there is a very common sight in the country of 190 million people. Not many of them, however, get to play on the regulation 81.74-square-meter court, recognized in England in the 1870s.

Nobody knows exactly when the sport was brought to the archipelago. It was 1958, though, when Indonesia began its long- time reign, winning its first All-England men's singles title through the hard work of Tan Joe Hok. The prestigious tournament's winners' list has plenty of Indonesian entries, including record eight time champion Rudy Hartono.

With nearly 1,000 clubs and provincial training centers throughout the archipelago, it looks like Indonesia will never run out of prodigies. Despite the enormous number of talented players, however, only a few will pass the strict selection to the national team.

A shuttler undergoes a long journey to join the elite squad at PBSI's base camp in Cilangkap, East Jakarta. Taught by a club, a promising shuttler must then prove themselves at a provincial training center before entering Cilangkap.

"It takes a player five or six years of rigorous training to reach national level," Icuk explained.

Training program

The 1983 world champion added that integrated training programs and continuous competition are key points in Indonesia's success in maintaining its super power status.

Suhantoro, a sports doctor, shared Icuk's opinion, and added that such a rigorous regiment requires an athlete to be physically excellent.

"The level of Indonesian shuttlers' fitness has become the world standard in badminton," said Suhantoro who works for the national sports governing body.

Badminton receives full support from both the government and the public. "Badminton in Indonesia is the same as soccer in Brazil," he pointed out.

He praised PBSI for being the only national sport body to involve science and technology in its training program.

"Scientific measures have been fully applied to PBSI's decision making process," Suhantoro said, referring to Mia Audina's expulsion from the national badminton team for the Asian Games in Hiroshima.

The Uber Cup heroine failed a fitness test prior to the selection for the Asiad badminton team, according to Suhantoro.

Retno Kustiah, former Uber Cup member and two time Asian Games women's doubles gold medalist, now coaches shuttlers at the Jaya Raya club in Ragunan, South Jakarta. She stated that her trainees undergo busy annual programs. "They have to get used to learning from each game they play," she said.

Retno added there may be six tournaments within a month, excluding provincial and national events. "Only European badminton playing countries have as many events as Indonesia," she stressed.

Icuk revealed that his club, funded by Bakrie Brothers corporation, has an annual budget of more than Rp 300 million (US$138,400). The money is spent on training and sending players to different tournaments.

Regular competitions can become boring, Icuk admitted. He therefore initiated a unique tournament for all ages last month, where seasoned players met novices. Competition was kept fair as junior players only had to rack up four points against experienced rivals to win.

More than 100 shuttlers participated in the tournament, which Icuk labeled as a break from routine. Everyone was vying for the top prize of a motorcycle. "Next year, a car will be at stake," Icuk promised.


Both Icuk and Retno agree that only a handful of talented players will ever cap their career with international recognition. "Why a talented, skillful player is unable to reach that height is complicated," said Retno.

She referred specifically to the imbalance in Indonesia's ladies singles team. World reigning champion Susi Susanti stands heads and shoulders above her teammates, with who she was on the same level for many years at Cilangkap.

"Susi is an exception. She has huge ambition and is able to motivate herself, a key factor her colleagues don't have," Retno said, adding that nobody will be able to match Susi within five years.

Retno, however, refuses to force Susi's standards on her players. "I give them chance after chance, hoping that they will build up their self-motivation," said Retno. The punishment for those who waste the opportunity is simple: they are sent home.

Jaya Raya houses its players in a dormitory located close to Ragunan schools. Scholarships are available for promising shuttlers.

Icuk said he takes the same punitive measures against his players who fail to improve. "Nineteen is the limit for a player who wants to shoot for a badminton career," said Icuk.

"I'm sorry that I have to ask 19-year-old players to forget their dream of becoming a world-class shuttler when they fail to meet the standards," Icuk commented.