26 Years On … Classic in the Making

Wednesday, July 15, 2015
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR

Over 25 years after it last hosted the BWF World Championships, Li Lingwei2Jakarta will once again welcome the world’s best players for the sport’s ultimate prize.

The Istora Senayan, where many epic battles have been fought and reputations built and shattered, will provide the setting as the biggest contemporary names seek glory.

Located within the Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex – built for the fourth Asian Games in 1962 – this indoor stadium is perhaps the most famous badminton venue.

In times past, throngs of spectators were so tightly packed in that they extended close to the sidelines, with the smoky, humid environs providing a daunting challenge to players. More recently, however, the air-conditioned arena does not have these distractions. What makes the Istora Senayan a universal favourite among players is the feverish enthusiasm of fans and that unique feature has not changed over the decades. If anything it has become more entrenched and there is therefore little doubt this colourful backdrop will be filled to capacity on each day of the TOTAL BWF World Championships, starting Monday 10 August.

Ardy WiranataWhen Jakarta hosted the World Championships in 1989, the tournament began a day after the inaugural Sudirman Cup which the hosts won. The toll of the back-to-back competition was evident, as local favourite Susi Susanti fell in the Women’s Singles quarter-finals to Huang Hua of China. Denmark’s Morten Frost saw his World Championships dream evaporate as he lost to emerging Indonesian star Ardy Wiranata in the fifth round of Men’s Singles.

Wiranata went on to reach the final against defending champion Yang Yang (featured image) of China. The young Indonesian made a match of it despite a gruelling semi-final over compatriot Eddy Kurniawan, but the stamina and guile of the left-handed Chinese proved too much for Wiranata in the end, 15-10 2-15 15-5.

The legendary Li Lingwei claimed the Women’s Singles crown beating compatriot Huang Hua 11-6 12-9. China wrapped up the event with four titles, including the Men’s Doubles (Li Yongbo/Tian Bingyi) and Women’s Doubles (Lin Ying/Guan Weizhen).

The only exception to Chinese domination was in Mixed Doubles, which was won by Korea’s Park Joo Bong and Chung Myung Hee over Indonesia’s Eddy Hartono/Verawaty Fajirin. Having won her second world title, Li Lingwei announced her retirement.

Li Yongbo & Tian Bingyi

Interestingly, some of these personalities are still actively involved in international badminton. While Li Yongbo has achieved vast success as China’s head coach (assisted by his former partner Tian Bingyi), Park Joo Bong has taken Japan to unprecedented heights as the country’s head coach. Li Lingwei, a BWF Council Member since 2005 and now Deputy Chair of the BWF Park Joo BongEvents Committee, became an International Olympic Committee member in 2012. Returning to the scene of one of their great triumphs is bound to be nostalgic.

The 1989 World Championships was the sixth edition of the event, after it debuted in 1977 in Malmo (Sweden). Originally slated to be held every three years, the interval was reduced to two after 1983. It became an annual event from 2005 onwards.

The TOTAL BWF World Championships 2015 will be the 22nd edition of the prestigious event and has all the ingredients to be classic that is long remembered. All five categories boast the crème de la crème and are evenly balanced.

The stage is set for intrigue…and upsets!