Kristin Blossoms amid Budding Olympians08 December, 2017
The First World Junior Championships for the Bimantara Cups may prove to be the birthplace of gold medal winners at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
From the moment that the welcome party by the governor of Jakarta ended with a spectacular fireworks display, the championships were headed for success. They were embroidered by brilliant play from budding Olympians.
The gold medals were spread through China and Indonesia (two each) and Denmark, although 25 nations participated.
One of the extraordinary feats of the organisation was that despite the problems in tackling the virgin fields of junior performances, the seeding committee actually saw three of their number one seeds win gold medals.
The surprise winner was Kristin Yunita of Indonesia who beat China's Yao Yie 12-11, 11-1 in 29 minutes in the women's singles. This was a tense struggle through the first game with Yunita having the opportunity to take the first game easily when leading 10-6. However, she didn't count on the fighting qualities of her Chinese opponent.
Yao broke back four times to level at 10-10 and had a game point before the plucky Yunita rounded it off in two long rallies. Yunita quickly recognised that Yao had suffered through the long rallies and smashed and drop shotted to 6-0 in the second game. With only two service changes she went on to win and to receive the first gold medal and the Bimantara Cup.
The top seeded Yao Yan of China had been bounced out by Yunita in the quarter-final after winning the first game 11-7 and losing the next two games 8-11, 8-11. Yunita then continued on her road of destruction in the semi-final with a 11-9, 11-5 win over 14-year-old Mia Audina, who is a champion in the making.
China's first medal came in the men's singles. Sun Jun, aged 17, is not the exciting player of whom we had been accustomed to see in the past, but he is a patient exponent of the game, intelligent, and with plenty of stamina.
Sun did not drop a game in six contests. Budi Santoso of Indonesia, seeded in the five to eight group, was the only player to trouble him when he took Sun to 18-13 in the quarter-final. Of the others only Michael Tedjakusuma and Georgeo Rimarcdi got to 11 points.
Second seeded Rimarcdi struggled into the final in a three-game match lasting 75 minutes, in which the five to eight seeded Setiadi Hartono eventually lost 17-15, 17-18, 15-6.
Sun Jun beat Rimarcdi 15-9, 15-11 in a 33-minute final in which the Indonesian had little chance after trailing 2-8 and 6-13 in the first game. Sun sapped the energy from Rimarcdi in this game, forcing him into long rallies in the 33° heat and 62° humidity.
Denmark took the mixed gold thanks greatly to Jim Laugessen who was both the outstanding performer and player at these world championships. As a player he was in three quarter-finals. As a performer his winning emotion exploded with a tremendous leap over the advertising signs. He returned to give his partner Rikke Olsen a bear hug and ended on his knees at the courtside, kissing the carpet.
The partial 5,000 spectators had been very vocal in support of his Korean opponents, but then crowded the barrier to shake his hand and get the signature of a champion. This is typical of the badminton fans in Jakarta.
Meanwhile the modest Olsen smiled. She had almost been there before because she had partnered Thomas Damgaard to win the World Junior Invitation Championship mixed doubles last year. Laugessen and Olsen did not have an easy run to the final and that was a similar pattern in the final itself.
This 46-minute match, which the Danes took 15-11, 18-17, was a thriller, particularly in the second game in which the Danes squandered winning opportunities.
The Danes led 4-1 in this; then they were down 4-6 and levelled at 7-all; and down again 9-12 but came back to lead 13-12. However the Koreans, Dong Moon Kim and Shin Young Kim, forced a five-point setting and went to 4-0 on second service, before the redoubtable Danes fought back to get the gold medals.
The first and second seeded pairs fought out an exciting three games men's doubles final over 78 minutes in which the first two games took 21 minutes each. Kusno and Santoso won 15-11, 12-15, 15-12. There were many long rallies punctuated with splendid drop shots and variations of speed as well as clever direction of shuttle placement.
The top seeds Namrih and Sigit matched Kusno and Santoso to 9-9 in the first game, struggled back to 11-11, then lost the next four points and the game 15-11.
Although Kusno and Santoso won the first game they were flat-footed in the second game and a burst of clever serving from their opponents put them 2-9 down. They levelled at 11-11, but it was perhaps inevitable they should lose this game.
Namrih and Sigit should have been inspired by this success but they trailed 1-4 in the third game and it took them 16 minutes to level the scores at 7-7. But this proved to be their death throes, and Kusno and Santoso were soon on the way to receiving the gold medals.
China gained its second gold when the top seeded Gu Jun and Han Jingna were too strong for their compatriots Tang Yongshu and Yuan Yali. They won 15-9, 15-5, but the final took 35 minutes.
The only time that the favourites were forced to battle was at 5-5 in the first game. While the rallies were long there were not inspiring or exciting exchanges due mainly to the dominance of Gu and Han.
-- By Roy Ward