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  • Big Pressure, Big Opportunity for Indonesian Badminton


    (ATR) In the third set of a pivotal match in the women’s team badminton tournament at the 2018 Asian Games, Indonesian teenager Fitriani is down 18-11.
    Indonesia's Fitriani competing in women's team badminton (ATR)

    After winning the second set 21-8, Fitriani cannot sustain the momentum against Korean opponent Lee Se-Yeon. Lee eventually wins the set 21-12 keeping the South Korean women’s team alive in the tournament.

    Next up, the doubles partnership of Della Destiara Haris and Rizki Amelia Pradipta easily win their match propelling Indonesia to the semifinals. Unseeded in the tournament, Indonesia is now guaranteed its first badminton medal on home turf.

    “[Playing at the Asian Games] is very important for me because it is such a big honor for me to play in this big event, it is once in a four year event so it’s really important and a big deal,” Fitriani said to Around the Rings post match. “Hopefully the badminton team in Indonesia can be better and give the best to our country.

    “I’m really sorry that I cannot give the best for my team today; I had a lot of anxiety of the early start of the game.”

    Badminton is arguably Indonesia’s most successful sport. The country has won a gold medal in every Olympics since 1992 in the event.

    Ticketing for the Asian Games has been chaotic after the tickets were removed from the original platform KisokTIX and migrated to another ticketing site Blibli, just one week before the Games. But, by the first day of competition, tickets for all badminton sessions appeared to be sold out.

    Night sessions have proven to have full crowds, and the women’s team quarterfinals on a Monday afternoon was half full, but rowdy. Spectators cheered every Indonesian point, and filled any chance of dead air with “Indonesia” chants.

    Rafael Khalidya at the badminton venue (ATR)
    Rafael Khalidya, 20, saved up to purchase a ticket to see badminton during the 2018 Asian Games. He said he still hoped to be able to afford to go to matches for other sports, but doubted being able to afford tickets for another badminton session.

    The only tickets currently posted on Blibli for badminton were for the men’s team final. Tickets cost as much as 800,000 IDR ($54.86), more than the price of many tickets for traditional marquee events such as the closing ceremony, men’s knockout football, or athletics.

    “Badminton is the only sport I am interested in…so I think it is worth it to buy tickets to the event,” Khalidya said, as he munched an afternoon snack in the midday Jakarta heat outside the venue. “The atmosphere when you support your own country inside the court is very nice. But, today is Monday and everyone is going to work. If Indonesia can make the final then it will have a really great atmosphere.”

    The Badminton Association of Indonesia (PSBI) says the country has over 10 million people that casually play the sport. That filters down to around 3,500 professional players in the country.

    Achmad Budiharto, secretary general of the Indonesian Badminton Association (ATR)
    Football remains the most popular sport in the country in terms of support and commercial opportunities. PSBI Secretary General Achmad Budiharto told ATR a successful team performance at the Asian Games could lead to more players trying the sport and more television viewers for other tournaments. That would filter to more money and investment in the sport over the next five years.

    Merely making semifinals and guaranteeing medals is not the goal of Indonesia at the 2018 Asian Games. Four years ago the Indonesian team won four medals, gold in both doubles events and a silver and bronze in the mixed doubles event.

    Badminton is one of the most important sports for the country’s medal goals in the 2018 Games. The two team medals are a start, but Indonesia will need to outdo its performance in Incheon to help reach the goal of top 10 in total medals in Jakarta and Palembang.

    Budiharto said that the Asian Games are essentially “a mini Olympics without Denmark,” meaning winning here bodes well for performances in two years in Tokyo.

    “We are going to fight getting the gold medals and contribute the medals to the Asian Games, it is very, very important,” Budiharto said.

    International tournaments staged yearly in Indonesia continually are rated high on the World Tour, Budiharto said. So, it is imperative that the federation assist with the Asian Games operation any way possible to ensure a smooth tournament.

    “I am proud that Indonesia can host this event of [such a] large scale,” Khalidya said before headed back in to watch the rest of the day’s session. “The bloodline of Indonesia is badminton.”

    A day later, the Indonesian women’s team started its semifinal matchup strong against top ranked Japan winning the first match, before losing the next three.

    In a cruel twist of fate, the men’s team was drawn against Japan in the semifinals, as well. Instead, the team brought a reversal from the morning session. After Indonesia lost its first matchup the team won its next three matches to advance to the finals.

    Now, the time comes to make good on the expectations.

    Written by Aaron Bauer in Jakarta

    Coverage of the 18th Asian Games is made possible in part by the Olympic Council of Asia

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