PBSI must work hard to keep winning ways
By Primastuti Handayani
KUALA LUMPUR (JP): Sunday was a time of celebration for the national team's shuttlers, with the men accomplishing their goal of bringing home the Thomas Cup and the women reaching the Uber Cup semifinals.
Hendrawan, Rexy Mainaky, Tony Gunawan and Taufik Hidayat were outstanding, overcoming the pressure from their supporters who flocked to the 12,000-seat Putra Indoor Stadium.
The media's prediction of a 3-0 whitewash of China came true when Hendrawan began the onslaught against Xia Xuanze, who beat him in the All England quarterfinals earlier in the year.
He opened the path to victory for his teammates, who also lived up to the high expectations.
The tie was so one-sided that it led to complaints that the young Chinese team was mentally unprepared for its Thomas Cup debt. The Chinese were far below the form they showed in earlier round-robin rounds and in international tournaments.
For Indonesia, the victory was an indicator that the players are experienced and mature in handling pressure of major events, which included the nail-biting 3-2 semifinal defeat of Denmark.
At the same time, it is a wake-up call to the Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI) in its bid to win the trophy a 13th time in 2002.
The problem is finding and training young players to become the next roster of champions.
Hendrawan, who also served as the 1998 Thomas Cup hero, Ricky Subagja and Rexy, the 1996 Olympic gold medalists, Candra Wijaya and Tony Gunawan, the current top ranked doubles team, and Sigit Budiarto, a highly talented doubles specialist making a comeback after a drug ban, are old faces.
Although a veteran of international tournaments, Taufik is the only youngster at the age of 18. The Bandung native made his debut as a member of the country's team in the 1998 Asian Games and lost to Xia in the All England final this year.
China, with 21-year-old Xia and Ji Xinpeng, was like a toothless dragon in comparison. In two years time, however, their youth will have given way to experience and finely honed skills.
What about Indonesia? With Rexy and Ricky's plan to retire after the Olympics, Indonesia may still be able to rely on Hendrawan, who wants to remain part of the next squad.
Motivation may not be enough, however, in facing the challenges of the future, especially from China and Denmark, the latter aiming to become the first non-Asian country to win the trophy.
The demands are especially great before the Sydney Olympics, where badminton is Indonesia's main hope for medals.
Indonesian shuttlers' disappointing form in individual tournaments on the International Badminton Federation (IBF) calendar indicates something is amiss with the athlete development program at the Indonesian Badminton Center in Cipayung, East Jakarta.
The first plan of action should be to maintain the physical conditioning of the present group of athletes by including physical training in the program. So far, PBSI has only assigned physical trainers Tahir Djide and Ridwan Soemardjo in the immediate run-up to a major event, including the Thomas Cup.
Personal treatment by coaches of their players is important. Coaches must be able to serve as psychologists, surrogate parents, siblings and friends to their charges.
The close relationships between Hendrawan and coach Agus Dwi Santoso, Taufik and coach Mulyo Handoyo and Tony and coach Herry Imam Pierngadi prove that mutual communication and trust will lead to better results in the future.
The role of a psychologist or sports counselor is particularly important before individual tournaments, which are the testing ground for players for major events.
The Olympics is PBSI's big objective for 2000, and it still has three months to work harder and more seriously in preparing the selected players.
For the next Thomas Cup, PBSI must recruit younger athletes to be able to take over from their seniors. The current group of young players -- Ronny Agustinus, Johan Hadikusuma, Arief Rosidi and Vidre Wibowo -- has earned more chances to compete in IBF tournaments and multisports events of the Southeast Asian Games next year.
Although PBSI has these young athletes for the next two years, it must recruit as much young talent, and the younger the better, as possible to smoothen the regeneration process.
If PBSI does not take quick and appropriate action in the men's game, Indonesia's fortunes will plummet as in the depleted women's team, now content to reach the semifinals of major tournaments.
Nobody wants that to happen, but it is up to PBSI to ensure Indonesia's men keep their winning ways.