Rio dream over but Sony outshines Son for 2nd title here

Sony Dwi Kuncoro's road to the title began in the qualifiers, as did his Indonesian compatriot Simon Santoso's two years ago. It is the world No. 56's second Singapore crown after his 2010 success.
Sony Dwi Kuncoro's road to the title began in the qualifiers, as did his Indonesian compatriot Simon Santoso's two years ago. It is the world No. 56's second Singapore crown after his 2010 success. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Sony Dwi Kuncoro has spent the last few years as his sport's forgotten man, the once-champion now battling his way in qualifiers.

The Indonesian gave the badminton world a reminder yesterday, and no place was more apt than on the stage of his last success.

He beat South Korea's Son Wan Ho 21-16, 13-21, 21-14 for the OUE Singapore Open men's singles title, winning his first Superseries event since his 2010 triumph here.

It was not just that Sony's fairy- tale run to the title began from the qualifiers. The 31-year-old's route to the final had included notable wins over adversaries like China's Wang Zhengming and Lin Dan and.

"It's really been a while," he said. "It's such a big achievement to be able to pass through the qualifiers and win this."

With a 2004 Olympic bronze and two podium finishes at the world championships, Sony is clearly no badminton minnow.

But following injuries to his back, waist and wrist over the years, and a departure from the national team in 2014, life in training for Sony could not be more different now.

"He doesn't have sparring partners in Surabaya, so sometimes I'm the one who plays with him, " his wife of nine years, Gading Safitri, told The Straits Times.

"It has been tough for his confidence, but he has very strong will and is very disciplined."

Gading, who played badminton while in senior high school, juggles the role of wife, mother to their two daughters, as well as manager and coach to Sony. So it was no wonder that the shuttler dedicated the biggest prize to come his way in six years to his greatest supporter.

He said: "Leaving the national team was a shock because I was used to the life of a national athlete. It was hard to get into the feeling of playing competitions.

"I had to do it step by step, work really hard, and I'm really thankful for my wife, who has supported me all the way. This is a gift to her."

Sony will return to eager to celebrate the title with his children, but also accepting that a push for the Olympics is beyond his reach.

He said: "It's everyone's dream to be a part of the Olympics, but I understand that my points are not enough. It's a process. Instead of thinking about the Olympics, I'll just focus on other tournaments.

"As long as I have the desire to practise, work hard and win, I see myself playing badminton even after 35.

"It's been a long journey, but such a meaningful journey."


May Chen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2016, with the headline 'Rio dream over but Sony outshines Son for 2nd title here'. Print Edition | Subscribe