Jakarta. Eight years after he won his first gold medal in the Asian Games, Taufik Hidayat is still Indonesia’s best hope for victory in the quadrennial meet.
And that doesn’t sit well with the country’s leading men’s singles shuttler.
Taufik, who topped the podium in the event during the 2002 and 2006 Games, is looking to complete a hat-trick of gold medal and he looked sharp in his first singles match in Guangzhou, routing Taiwan’s Hsieh Yu-hsing 21-16, 21-12 at Tianhe Gymnasium on Wednesday.
However, age is catching up with the 30-year-old former world and Olympic champion, who lamented the failure to find new talent.
“It’s a bit sad that at my age, the country is still depending a lot on me to win gold,” Taufik, currently ranked No. 3 in the world, said on Wednesday.
“The PBSI [Indonesian Badminton Association] should be ashamed that it’s still looking to me for more titles, when, in fact, it should be counting on younger shuttlers like Sony [Dwi Kuncoro] or Simon [Santoso].”
However, Taufik may have to wait some time before someone is ready to take up his mantle.
Sony, the other Indonesian in the Asian Games men’s singles draw, lost his opening match 21-13, 14-21, 21-17 to unseeded Chou Tien Chen of Taiwan.
“Sony’s loss was unexpected, but I still believe we can win a gold medal in badminton,” said Yacob Rusdianto, the manager of the national badminton team, without emphasizing which shuttler he thought would achieve the feat.
Taufik, seeded fourth in Guangzhou, can advance to the quarterfinals if he beats Dinuka Karunaratna of Sri Lanka in the second round.
If Taufik wins, he is likely to face China’s Lin Dan in the semifinals. Lin lost to Taufik in the final of the 2006 Games, but got a measure of revenge this week when he beat the Indonesian 21-13, 23-21 in the team event.
Taufik cautioned against high expectations.
“I’ll definitely fight as hard as I can, but I hope people won’t judge me harshly if I fail,” Taufik said. “[The loss to Lin] has taught me a lot, and I’ll do my best not to commit the same mistakes if I do meet him again.”
In other first round action, the unseeded Ahmad Tontowi and Liliyana Natsir earned a second-round berth in the mixed doubles after they defeated Koo Kien Keat and Woon Khe Wei of Malaysia 21-10, 21-9.
The Indonesian duo will next play No. 5 seeds Chen Hung Ling and Cheng Wen Hsing of Taiwan, who had a first round bye.
In the women’s singles, Adriyanti Firdasari was left to carry Indonesia’s medal hopes after Maria Febe Kusumastuti was ousted in the first round.
Adriyanti beat Thailand’s Salakjit Ponsana 21-18, 16-21, 21-15 to book a second round match against Wong Mew Choo of Malaysia, while Maria fell 21-16, 21-11 to Taiwan’s Pai Hsiao Ma.
Indonesia’s entries in the women’s doubles were eliminated.
Shendy Puspa Irawati and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari fell 21-10, 21-11 to China’s Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang, while Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii lost 21-19, 21-18 to Taiwan’s Hsieh Pei Chen and Wang Pei Rong.
In the men’s doubles, Indonesia’s Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan, and Muhammad Ahsan and Alvent Yulianto Chandra, were playing second-round matches after press time.