Indonesia digs deep for future badminton stars
The Jakarta Post
With Indonesia's shuttlers are set to embark on their Sudirman Cup duty, the badminton authorities are re-asserting their far-reaching and demanding program to discover young talent for future challenges.
During the celebration of the Indonesian Badminton Association's (PBSI) 64th anniversary at the Cipayung training camp, incumbent chairman Gita Wirjawan said that at the end of his term he wanted to focus on investing in young athletes who could replace the current crop of players.
'We have tightened our recruitment and improved development programs. We have also been trying to build better communications with the provincial branches and clubs,' Gita said on Tuesday.
'I believe there will be more young players in all sectors who can make achievements on international stages,' he added.
The occasion coincided with a send-off ceremony for national shuttlers bound for Dongguan, China, to compete in the world team badminton championship from May 11 to 17.
Among the VIP guests were former PBSI chairs including Try Sutrisno, who served as chairman from 1985 to 1993, Sutiyoso (2004-2008) and Djoko Santoso (2008-2012).
Sutiyoso, who is also a former Jakarta governor, expressed his hope that Indonesia would win a major trophy again.
'I hope Indonesia can bring home at least one of three badminton championships, either the Thomas Cup, Uber Cup and or Sudirman Cup this year,' he said.
He conceded Indonesia's decline in international competitions, which he partly blamed on the current poor state of the singles sectors.
'I really hope the singles sectors can reach their peak like they used to do,' he added.
Indonesia won its only Sudirman Cup trophy when it hosted the inaugural competition in 1989 in Jakarta while the last time Indonesia won the Thomas Cup was in 2002.
The Uber Cup, the women's version of the Thomas Cup, has eluded Indonesia much longer, winning its last trophy in 1996.
In the last few years, Indonesia has relied on the men's doubles to stay in contention, spearheaded by the 2013 world champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan and the world mixed doubles and three-time All England champions Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir.
In the other three sectors ' men's singles, women's singles and women's doubles ' Indonesia is still struggling against its world peers.
However, last year's Asian Games gave Indonesia hope of a revival in its badminton fortunes in the women's doubles when Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari contributed the Indonesian contingent's first gold medal in the women's doubles in 36 years at the quadrennial multi-sport showcase in Incheon, South Korea.
For the 2015 Sudirman Cup, Indonesia is resting its hopes on young players in the men's singles following the withdrawal of senior members Simon Santoso and Tommy Sugiarto from the training camp early this year.
The junior players are Firman Abdul Kholik, Jonatan Christie and Ihsan Maulana Mustofa. The women's singles sector sees familiar faces in Linda Wenifanetri and Bellaetrix Manuputty while Hanna Ramadini will be making her debut.
Firman, who has been in the camp for just a year, said he was surprised and honored to play in the Sudirman Cup.
'I shall not waste such an opportunity,' he said.
PBSI head of development and achievement Rexy Mainaky said that young players deserved their places in the team.
'Those young players don't have much experience yet, but if we don't trust them now, then when? We aim to prepare the regeneration of athletes who can shine in one to two years ahead,' said.
Indonesia is in Group C with Denmark and England, while defending champion China is in Group A with Thailand and Germany. Group B consists of Japan, Chinese Taipei and the US, while the 2013 runner-up South Korea is pitted against India and Malaysia in Group D.
Two teams from each group will advance to the quarterfinals. Group winners will play the runners-up.
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