Indonesia's 'Minions' Aim for Badminton Glory

Indonesian badminton men's double players Marcus Fernaldi Gideon, left, and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo are seen during an exercise at the national badminton camp in Jakarta on May 3. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

By : Jessica Damiana and Zahra Matarani | on 11:48 PM August 13, 2018
Category : News

Jakarta. Affectionately dubbed the "Minions" after the little yellow creatures from the 2015 animated movie, diminutive badminton duo Marcus Gideon and Kevin Sukamuljo will hope to stand tall and win gold for Indonesia at the Asian Games this month.

Currently the world's top ranked men's doubles team, the pair are among some 11,300 athletes from across Asia who are set to compete in 40 sports hosted by Jakarta and Palembang, South Sumatra.

Badminton, in which Indonesia hopes to win medals, is one of the country's most popular sports with children and adults across the archipelago playing it almost every day in sports halls, backyards and alleyways.

Like many Indonesians, Marcus and Kevin started playing at an early age. Now 27 and 23, they were paired three years ago and have collected several titles together at major tournaments, including earlier this year at the prestigious All England Open.

"I think height doesn't impact our performance. What's important is confidence," Marcus, who stands 168 centimeters tall, told Reuters with a laugh.

"We keep learning, that's why we are getting better," his partner Kevin, who is 2 cm taller, said in an interview between training sessions at the Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI) outside Jakarta.

The pair took the All England Open title by beating Danish duo Carsten Mogensen and Mathias Boe, who are ranked the world's number two, and will be strong favorites to land the men's doubles gold on Aug. 28.

Indonesia has a long history of success at international badminton competitions, most recently through the now retired Olympic and world singles champion Taufik Hidayat.

Tan Joe Hok became the first Indonesian to win the All England Open in 1959 when the Southeast Asian country first competed in the tournament with the ethnic Chinese also landing the inaugural Asian Games men's singles gold in Jakarta in 1962.

Susi Susanti, gold medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, said the sport comes naturally to many Indonesians but added that every player was encouraged to develop their own style, which, she says, sets them apart from other nationalities.

"They are not that tall, but they are powerful. With the right strategy and agility, they can beat their much larger opponents," she said of her compatriots.

Indonesians have won 26 gold medals in badminton over 15 versions of the Asian Games, the Thomas Cup men's team championship 13 times and the equivalent for women, the Uber Cup, three times.

Since badminton became an Olympic sport in 1992, however, competition from countries like China, India, Denmark and Spain has grown markedly.

"It looks like it will be very difficult to bring home the Thomas and Uber Cup, because now the competition among countries is very tough," said Gatot S. Dewa Broto of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

That will not, of course, diminish optimism in Indonesia that the likes Marcus and Kevin will strike gold on home court at the Bung Karno Sport Complex over the next couple of weeks.

Reuters

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