Olympic redemption the main priority for Polii

Indonesia's Greysia Polii (left) and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari in action against China's Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan yesterday.
Indonesia's Greysia Polii (left) and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari in action against China's Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan yesterday.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Athletes usually look back on their Olympic experiences as their greatest achievements, sweet rewards on sport's grandest stage after years of striving.

But Greysia Polii remembers only pain and tears each time she recalls her "tragedy" at the 2012 Olympics.

The 28-year-old was among eight shuttlers given the boot in London for throwing matches to secure a better draw in the next round. The Olympics had been using a new competition format that year.

Ever since her ignominious exit, the Indonesian has had to endure the shame of disqualification from the Olympics.

"I was crying every day," Polii told The Straits Times yesterday at the OUE Singapore Open, where she has reached today's women's doubles semi-final with partner Nitya Krishinda Maheswari.

The post-London condemnation came loud and clear, from badminton's biggest names like Lin Dan and Taufik Hidayat, and also in a four-month ban from the Indonesian badminton association.

She said: "I wanted to stop, to quit playing. I was already 25, which wasn't (considered) young any more. It was quite difficult for me to overcome the situation then."

The support from loved ones, as well as from her association, got her through the dark period after the Olympics, which lasted for a year. But it was the will to put the past behind her that got Polii back on court, where she and her partner are now the world No. 3 duo.

She said: "I asked myself, what is my calling in this sport, what is my aim in this life?

"I've been in this sport since I was five - my whole life has been about badminton. I wanted to create something better to end my journey, to put London behind me and make new memories, at least for myself.

"I realised that I wanted to try one more time. If it doesn't work well, I stop. But at least I try again."

While Polii kept playing badminton while serving out her ban, the tough part was to rebuild her confidence. Each time she stepped out on court was a reminder of her most infamous exit.

Ultimately, it was also on court where Polii got back on her feet.

It came through a first title with her new partner at the 2013 Thailand Open, before they sensationally defeated favourites Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo of Japan at the 2014 Asian Games to clinch Indonesia's first gold in that event in 36 years.

Votes of confidence also came from her peers as Polii was one of three players elected to the Badminton World Federation Athletes' Commission in 2013 to represent the players for a four-year term.

Said Polii: "I appreciated that. They knew that I'd been disqualified, (but) I feel like people still believe in me.

"For an athlete to be a great player, you have ups and downs. You have memories that are very, very bad, but you have great memories too.

"I have the London Olympics, and I have the Asian Games, and now I go on to create something better at the Rio Olympics."

She may be unable to alter a blemish in her past, but Polii is bent on making her future shine.

May Chen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2016, with the headline 'Olympic redemption the main priority for Polii'. Print Edition | Subscribe