Badminton Life

Indonesians Hail Future Queen Yulianti

Indonesia may have failed to win gold in the women's singles competition of the Beijing Olympics but the country's media and fans were stirred by the performance of 23-year-old Maria Kristin Yulianti.

The new star in Indonesian badminton won a bronze medal at Beijing after reaching the semi-finals as an unseeded player and then beating China's Lu Lan in the third-fourth place play-off.

In the round of 16, she defeated Denmark's sixth seed and All England champion Tine Rasmussen.

"The result surpassed my personal target of making it to the quarter-finals. Of course I am happy," said the 21st-ranked Yulianti in the Jakarta Post.

There was a time, however, when Yulianti was not happy with badminton at all. She was born in the coastal town of Tuban, East Java, and started playing badminton at the age of 10 in her hometown.

In 1998, she joined the Kudus, Central Java-based Djarum, which is one of the biggest clubs in Indonesia.

However, she did not enjoy it one bit.

"I hated badminton back then," she said. "The reason why I joined the club was because my father forced me to, but if it was up to me I would have chosen volleyball."

However, at her father's insistence, she kept at it. Despite her dislike of the sport, she proved to be a hard worker, training at the Djarum club for eight years before finally winning her first tournament at the Surabaya Satellite.

She says: "I realised badminton was my life. I preferred badminton to study, so I had to dedicate myself to it."

She finally made it to the national team but it was a low time for Indonesian women who failed to qualify for the Uber Cup finals.

The Badminton Association of Indonesia told them to either improve or quit the national team. Sydney 2000 Olympic silver medallist Hendrawan was roped in to coach the women and their fortunes eventually turned around.

"This victory is for Hendrawan. He was the one who got me this far. I didn't expect this to happen. Hendrawan not only taught me badminton, but he taught me how to deal with life," said Yulianti.

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