(Photo: Badminton Photo)
Third time lucky for Greysia Polii: I was born to be a badminton player
Date: 8/2/2021 10:44 AM
Published by : Alan Raftery & Yash Sharma
Greysia Polii/ Apriyani Rahayu convincingly defeated Chen Qing Chen/ Jia Yi Fan of China to win the first-ever Olympic medal for the badminton powerhouse that is Indonesia in women’s doubles. The fact that the medal is gold in colour makes it even better. 
The journey of Polii/ Rahayu in Tokyo is one of multiple shocks, that have kept fans guessing all the way through. The Indonesians sat atop the podium, flanked by pairs from the most successful nations in badminton’s Olympic history. 

Following the disqualification from the London 2012 Olympics, Greysia Polii has gone through numerous twists and turns, both personally and professionally. She changed partners from Meiliana Jauhari to Nitya Krishinda Maheswari to Apriyani Rahayu. Polii would go on to win three World Championships bronzes. Even though Polii/ Rahayu undoubtedly remained among the best in the business, they unfailingly found themselves a step or two short in the major tournaments. 

The Indonesians, true to style, brought an industrious and steady brand of badminton to Tokyo. Playing a positive game and efficiently manoeuvring the drift. Polii/ Rahayu relished the best-ever badminton of their life. Even at the age of 33, Polii demonstrated supreme fitness throughout the tournament. They compensated for every previous shortcoming, getting the better of one opponent after another.

The ultimate glory
The duo beat perhaps more accomplished pairs, including the top seeds Yuki Fukushima/ Sayaka Hirota, Du Yue/ Li Yinhui, and Lee Sohee/ Shin Seungchan on their way to the final. In the final today, it was the second seeds’ turn. Polii/ Rahayu led throughout as they bested their opponents in straight games, despite an unfavourable previous record. 

- When I was 13 years old, I knew Indonesia had not made history in women's doubles. Of course, China and Korea are strong in the field. I knew I was born to be a badminton player and kept being patient. It takes commitment to reach the dream, the gold. And here we are right now. My family told me not to give up, don't quit, Polii was emotional. 

- I'm speechless right now. We are here and we got the gold medal. It's indescribable. This one is so meaningful for me. I thank Apriyani that she wanted to run with me and I appreciate her so much, Polii was thankful.

- I cannot believe that this is what I got. I really did not think I'd make it this far. I want to thank God and my partner. I told her I'm not getting any younger, so Greysia you really need to start running with me, no walking. Through every challenge and knockout we have had, you have to keep persevering because this gold medal, this moment, this is what we're aiming for all this time so thank you so much Greysia, Rahayu was grateful to her partner. 

Grace in defeat
While the top two Japanese pairs had succumbed to pressure in the early stages itself, the big tournament players Chen/ Jia could not find their winning form. There was a whole host of uncharacteristic unforced errors on the part of the Chinese. They consequently lost 21-19, 21-15 in straight games.

- I admit that this was the first time we were going to the Olympics, so we were a bit nervous. We are not as good as Polii/ Rahayu so we need to learn from them. Our opponents are more experienced, Jia acknowledged.

- We want to focus on the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, but I'm not sure what will happen in a few years, she continued.

South Korea’s run continues
Between Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, there has been a lot of change and turmoil in the traditionally strong South Korean team. Coaches have left, including Kang Kyung Jin and Yoo Yong Sung sat behind the Chinese players in Tokyo. Many talents are no longer part of the national team with a refocus on youth development. 

This reshuffle is partly due to the fact that the Olympic gold’s and silver’ have dried up and in the last two Olympics South Korea have returned with a single bronze medal from each – Lee Yong Dae/ Jung Jae Sung in London 2012 and Jung Kyungeun/ Shin Seungchan in Rio 2016. 

South Korea is hanging onto a record that they share with China, having won a medal at every single Olympic Games. In Tokyo, the women’s doubles provided a guaranteed bronze medal as Kim Soyeong/ Kong Heeyong took on fourth seeds Lee Sohee/ Shin Seungchan.

No nerves
Shin, having won bronze in Rio 2016, has experience of a tense bronze medal match to lean on. However, it was their opponents who were not feeling the pressure.

-We have played against them a number of times so we weren't that nervous. We know each other very well and we tried to treat this as a practice match and not a real match, so we didn't feel that nervous, said Kim.

Kim/ Kong got off to a great start, storming away with the opening game. Lee/ Shin providing some resistance in the second, but the fearless Kim/ Kong took the bronze with a 21-10, 21-17 win.

-We are extremely happy to get the bronze medal. We were not thinking that this was just another medal for South Korea, said a delighted Kim.

The future
Lee/ Shin are already trying to shake off this disappointment and look towards their next future goals. 

-Since Korea won the bronze we are happy, but at the same time, because we didn't win we are depressed. We will forget about this and prepare well and try our best for the World Championships at the end of the year, stated Shin. 

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