Tue, 23 May 2000

Victorious shuttlers arrive home, receive kudos from President

JAKARTA (JP): The victorious Thomas Cup badminton team and the Uber Cup women's squad returned home from Malaysia on Monday, with their performance in the team events quieting fears about the country's chances in the Sydney Olympics.

Led by the chairman of the Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI), Subagyo Hadisiswoyo, the contingent was greeted at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport by Minister of Home Affairs Surjadi Soedirdja, chairman of the National Sports Council (KONI) Wismoyo Arismunandar, chairman of KONI's Jakarta chapter Abdul Kahfi and other top sports officials.

President Abdurrahman Wahid congratulated the men's team and encouraged the women to strive harder when the contingent paid a visit to Merdeka Palace later in the day.

The teams will hold a victory parade in the capital on Tuesday, starting from KONI's office in Senayan, Central Jakarta, and ending at the National Training Center in Cipayung, East Jakarta.

The Indonesian men thrashed China 3-0 to retain the Thomas Cup for the fourth successive time and their 12th victory since 1958. The Indonesian women lost 0-3 to China in the Uber Cup semifinals. China retained its title with a 3-0 win over Denmark.

Subagyo said the men's players needed to fine-tune their skills before the Olympics in September.

"We already know the individual strengths of our rivals. Based on this observation, we can measure our shuttlers' strengths and weaknesses so we can sharpen them before the Olympics."

He said evaluations would be made of the women to determine their prospects in the Olympics. "We will see if any of the women's shuttlers have chances to earn medals."

Taufik Hidayat's win over Ji Xin-peng, the Japan Open champion, boosted the hope of the 18-year-old player for the Olympics.

"I'm eying a gold in the Olympics men's singles. The most dangerous contenders are definitely Chinese shuttlers," he said.

Team manager Soemarjono, at the center of a counterfeit money scandal, was not spotted upon arrival at the airport or at the palace ceremony. Team officials and players said he sat in the back row of the plane from Kuala Lumpur but they did not see him at the airport.

Soemarjono, a retired Army officer, was allegedly involved in producing and distributing fake money in the amount of Rp 4.5 billion at a site in East Jakarta. Thirteen other suspects were arrested last week by the Surabaya Police, who also seized Rp 50,000 in fake banknotes which were ready for distribution.

"He was with us during the Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta flight. But after that, we don't know," said PBSI's executive chairman Karsono.

Subagyo said PBSI was not disturbed by the scandal but he would await results of the police investigation before making a decision on Soemarjono's involvement in the organization.

"We will wait for the police investigation. Regarding training preparations, we have arranged the program and the funding which enables anybody to conduct the training. We also have set the target, so the investigation will not affect our activities," he said. (ivy)