Jakarta. Indonesia has finally secured its first gold at Rio de Janeiro Olympics 2016 after badminton's mixed doubles pair Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir crushed Malaysia's Goh Liu Ying and Chan Peng Soon, in a victory dubbed as the best "gift" for the country's independence day on August 17.
Tontowi and Liliyana won in a straight game of 21-14 and 21-12, dominantly attacking with typical high speed tempo and powerful smashes, making the Malaysians seemed inferior to the world's number three before closing the game in less than one hour.
Supported by more than 100 Indonesian fans dressed in red and white and banging noisemaker sticks, the hyper-aggressive Tontowi repeatedly smashed through Goh and Chan's defenses, with Lilyana almost impregnable at the net.
Malaysia have waited 52 years for an Olympic champion in badminton, but their hopes of breaking the drought were extinguished by the rampant Indonesian pair.
The Indonesian pair showed tactical advantages with good task specialization on the field. Liliyana covered at front with her unique intercept smashes and flat balls, as Tontowi covered the back with his powerful jump smashes and lobs.
The Malaysians were mostly overwhelmed by Tontowi's smashes from the back, as well as his clever drop-shots -- which were equally effective.
In the first set, Tontowi and Liliyana went very aggressive, leaving their opponents 10 points behind whilst the game just reached 15 minutes. They finished the first set with a confident 21-14.
The Malaysians had then surrendered the second set meekly with only 12 points, with Goh netting on the final point and triggered frenetic celebrations for the Indonesians around the arena.
Speaking after the game, Liliyana expressed her relief after the high pressure she received during the Olympics.
"I still couldn't believe it [the gold], this is the gold for Indonesia's independence day," she said. "I want to take a break and enjoy this win first. Honestly, there has been high pressure on us during this [Olympic] event."
The pair will be granted Rp 5 billion ($380,000) bonus after the gold, as Tontowi said he will use it for his children.
"This is the most beautiful gift, thanks to all coaches!" Tontowi said after the game. "I never think of it [the bonus], but yes, I want to save it for my kids."
Chan and Goh were philosophical about the loss, having enjoyed an excellent tournament in which they upset the reigning Chinese champions in the semi-finals.
"I feel this is tremendous for our country, because not one single Malaysian pair has won any medal in the mixed doubles, so we have already made history," said Goh.
First Gold For Mixed Doubles
Indonesia's badminton's mixed doubles had never achieved gold in previous Olympics, as the current victory marked its first, the federation chairman revealed.
"20 years in the making: 1st mixed doubles Olympic gold for Indonesia. Special for Indonesia's 71 anniversary," Indonesia badminton federation PBSI chairman Gita Wirjawan cheered via his Twitter account after the win.
20 years in the making: 1st mixed doubles #Olympic gold for #INA. Special for #RI71. — Gita Wirjawan (@gwirjawan) August 17, 2016
The tradition of gold from badminton was often earned from men's doubles, with last achieved by Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, Tontowi and Liliyana's victory has indeed been all sorts of the first.
Indonesia has sent 28 athletes from seven sports to compete in Rio Olympics, with most coming from badminton. The country's only chance to add more medals now lies in the hands of BMX rider Toni Syarifudin, who has just started his race.