The Jakarta Post
Tontowi Ahmad celebrates his win with Liliyana Natsir at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug. 17. (pbdjarum.org/-)
Indonesia cheered loudly as Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi "Owi" Ahmad came out as winners of the badminton mixed-doubles category at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug. 17. The two became gold medallists after successfully defeating Chang Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying of Malaysia in the final.
While clearly Liliyana Natsir has become the queen of Indonesian badminton mixed-doubles, what about Tontowi Ahmad? Who is he and how did he start his career?
(Read also: Let’s not take Olympic badminton gold for granted)
Indonesia's Tontowi Ahmad (left) is about to make a return to Malaysian pair Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying, as partner Liliyana Natsir looks on during the badminton mixed-doubles gold medal match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 17. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Tontowi was born in Banyumas regency in Central Java on July 18, 1987. The father to Danish Arsenio Ahmad and husband to Michelle Harminc first tried his hands on badminton when he was a third-grade elementary school student due to his father’s love of the sport, according to Antara news agency.
His father, Muhammad Husni Muzaitun, recalls that Owi was a naughty boy who was difficult in being taught badminton. “You could say that he didn’t want to train if there was ‘nothing’ on the net,” Husni said, referring to monetary rewards. "Extra patience was needed to teach him since he [initially] didn’t like badminton.”
However, Owi showed remarkable progress and his talent was later noticed. After finishing junior high school, he joined the Argo Pantes Badminton Association (PB Argo Pantes) in Tangerang before switching to Semen Gresik’s training center.
(Read also: Jokowi wants more sports to contribute medals)
“When I was in Gresik, I decided to quit badminton because I had no partner,” said Owi. Yet, later he got recruited by the Djarum Badminton Association (PB Djarum) and has trained for the mixed-doubles category ever since.
Prior to partnering with Liliyana Natsir in 2010, he had achieved notable accomplishments, including a gold medal at the Vietnam Grand Prix Open 2007, which he dubs as one of his most memorable matches. Regarding his collaboration with Liliyana, who is already a senior athlete and had astounding wins with her former partner Nova Widianto, Owi said, “I really didn’t expect that I would be paired with her because there were other senior athletes besides me, including Muhammad Rijal and Fran Kurniawan.”
Since 2010, Tontowi and Liliyana has made Indonesia proud through their achievements, starting from their first win together in the 2011 Malaysia Open GP Gold, All England Super Series Premier and Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold in 2012, to their recent win in Rio.
(Read also: Liliyana Natsir’s proud father showered with praise)
Indonesia's Tontowi Ahmad (left) and Liliyana Natsir pose for the camera after winning the badminton mixed-doubles gold medal match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 17. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
However, despite being a good pair on the court, it does not mean that there was never any tension between the two. One example was during Rio. As quoted by badmintonindonesia.org, Liliyana confessed that she had to lower her ego to partner better with Owi. “I found that I often responded negatively to Tontowi whenever he made mistakes on the court." Realizing that it is an important event to both of them, Liliyana tried to change her attitude. “I tried my best to keep my cool because I knew Tontowi wanted to win too.”
This was reciprocated by Owi. "Being nervous is being human and unavoidable. I kept telling [Liliyana] to stay relaxed. I also asked her to remind me of the same thing," he said. With such an attitude, the two managed to bring home the gold for Indonesia.
Regarding their win in Rio, Tontowi commented, “I hope our struggle will inspire others and that junior athletes will follow in our footsteps.”
After returning to Indonesia, the two athletes reportedly are scheduled to enjoy a well-deserved vacation. (kes)