Badminton Life

Indonesian Coach Wants Return to The Glory Days

Indonesian head coach Christian Hadinata is hoping the Olympic Games can be the start of a new era for his country's badminton fortunes.

During the early to mid 90s, Indonesia were the dominant force in world badminton, with Allan Budi Kusuma and Susi Susanti winning men's and women's singles gold respectively at the Barcelona Olympics.

However, China have now usurped the Indonesians and are favourites to land the majority of medals, if not all, on offer on home turf at next month's Beijing Olympics.

For Hadinata, a return to the glory days would be a dream come true, having himself being involved as a player in the 60s and 70s when Indonesia were by far the world's best badminton nation.

With a legend such as Rudy Hartono in the team, they won five Thomas Cup titles, and the players were as popular as film stars in the badminton-mad country.

"It was amazing all the support we generated with just this little racket," Christian said in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor. "We weren't playing for any prize money, just prestige. I still get recognized out on the street."

But the pressure is on Indonesia's players at this year's Olympics. Half of the country's Olympic squad to Beijing is made up of badminton players, and the players know that their compatriots are expecting much.

Even while training, the article points out, there are advertising banners proclaiming: "This is Indonesia, Mister. We have to be champions".

Lilyana Natsir is one of Indonesia's leading mixed doubles players and is ranked number one in the world with her partner Nova Widianto. However, she just concentrates on the training and refuses to get caught up in the Olympic hype.

"I'm trying to just block out the distractions and concentrate on playing my best," says Liliyana Natsir.

She then refers to the danger of setting targets for the Olympics by saying: "Sometimes it acts like a boomerang." What she means is that it could turn back and hit the players.

Markis Kido, who is one of the leading men's doubles players in the world, said the expectations can be both pressure and support.

"We feel the pressure, but we will also feel the spirit of Indonesians out there," he said.

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