Olympics: Indonesia breaks Chinese stranglehold in badminton women’s doubles

Greysia Polii (left) and Apriyani Rahayu of Indonesia bagged the women's doubles gold medal in badminton at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Greysia Polii (left) and Apriyani Rahayu of Indonesia bagged the women's doubles gold medal in badminton at the Tokyo Olympic Games.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP, REUTERS) - Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu won badminton women’s doubles gold on Monday (August 2), breaking a Chinese stranglehold and claiming Indonesia’s first title of the Tokyo Olympics.

They beat China’s second seeds Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan 21-19 21-15 to cries of encouragement from a handful of socially distanced Indonesian team members and support staff that echoed through Tokyo’s mostly empty Musashino Forest Sport Plaza.

China had won every women’s doubles gold but two since badminton’s debut at the 1992 Games, but the Indonesians came flying out of the blocks and never let up until the final point.

Jia sent the last shot of the match wide, but a challenge from the Chinese pair put Indonesian celebrations on ice until a replay confirmed the victory.

The win was well-deserved.

At one stage, Polii hit the shuttlecock so hard that a string on her racket broke and she had to dash off to swap it for another one while the point was still in play.

Indonesia have never won a gold medal in women’s doubles, an event China has previously excelled in.

“People said, ‘You’re not going to make it because Indonesia doesn’t have a history in women’s doubles,” said a sobbing Polii, 33, whose Olympic dream began two decades ago.

“Here I am now.”

Polii had been on the brink of retiring after the 2016 Rio Games, but was persuaded to continue after teaming up with Rahayu – 10 years her junior.

Polii and Rahayu clutched each other after the win, crying while singing the national anthem underneath their masks as the Indonesian flag was hoisted.

In a moment of touching camaraderie, they invited the silver and bronze medallists to squeeze onto the podium for a picture.

South Korea’s Kim So-yeong and Kong Hee-yong won the bronze, beating compatriots Lee So-hee and Shin Seung-chan 21-10, 21-17.