Past Stars Recall Istora Heroics

Friday, August 28, 2015

One constant has remained over the three World Championships that Indonesia Review_Ivana Liehas hosted the event – Istora Senayan, the historic badminton venue.

The stadium hosted the event first in 1980 and again in 1989. It would take over 25 years for the championships to return to Jakarta. To two players who starred in the first two events, there was something quaint about the fact that the arena has seen little change over the decades.

Ivana Lie (right) was part of a generation that included the incomparable Rudy Hartono, Liem Swie King, Christian Hadinata, and others. The World Championships in 1980 saw Indonesia dominate the event, winning four of five gold medals. Lie would play a big part in that story, as she stopped the then-defending champion, Denmark’s Lene Koppen, in the semi-finals.

“It was great, especially the semi-finals. There were 10,000 people in the stadium here,” she recalls.

“I played Lene Koppen and I won. I cannot describe how happy I was… to beat the World champion in front of my people.”

“The stadium hasn’t changed much, except that it now has air-conditioning. It used to be very difficult as people used to smoke inside. I have great memories whenever I see the stadium. It wasn’t just the World Championships; I’ve played other events here. Every time, all the memories come back and it’s a great feeling.”

Review_Park Joo Bong2“I’m very happy that I was living in that era, with great players like Rudy (Hartono), Liem Swie King, Christian Hadinata. As a junior, I learnt so much, the value of the sport, how they trained, the hard work they showed, and the values they had, all that influenced me… Hartono was very focussed and disciplined. He’s like that even now.”

For Korea’s Park Joo Bong (left), the World Championships in 1989 was one of the highlights of a glittering career. Having led Korea into the final of the Sudirman Cup a week earlier, Park had to dig deep to overcome the tremendous strain of a long team final.

“The World Championships was just after the Sudirman Cup,” reminisces Park.

“There was no air-conditioning; people used to smoke inside, and it was very hot. I played the Mixed Doubles and the Men’s Doubles in the team final against Indonesia. In the Men’s Doubles, we beat Eddy Hartono and Rudy Gunawan in a very long match. It went for one and a half hours and I was groggy at the end. I felt like I almost died.

“I then went for the last match, the Mixed Doubles. I played with Chung Myung Hee against Eddy Hartono and Verawaty (Wiharjo). I was physically finished by 8-10 in the first game. After the match I could not wake up. My physio stayed in my room all night to take care of me. It was very very tough match. I was in bed for two days, before the individual event.

“My Men’s Doubles partner got injured during the Sudirman Cup, so I played only Mixed Doubles in the individual event. The final was against Indonesia, versus Eddy Hartono and Verawaty; this time we beat them. It was very tough. It was a lot about mental strength.”

Review_Indonesia fan

With the third edition of the World Championships hosted at Istora Senayan having concluded, both Lie and Park would be reasonably happy with the performance of their respective teams, Indonesia and Japan. Istora continued to maintain its reputation as a challenging venue whose benediction players needed if they had to perform well. Players had to acclimatise to the drift early on in the week, while hoping to win the affection of the crowd. Those who were embraced by the audience drove themselves to heroic performances. Lindaweni Fanetri and Carolina Marin both thanked the crowd for inspiring them in the face of adversity; even the battle-hardened Chen Long broke down after his Men’s Singles title win. He was to relate later that this was victory was special, for it had been long since a Chinese had won a Men’s Singles title in Indonesia. Istora Senayan’s reputation as badminton’s premier venue remains unchallenged.