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Taiwan | South Korea | Japan | Singapore | Hong Kong | Malaysia | China | Thailand | Philippines

Toru Yamanaka - AFP.
Big things are expected of Badmington stars Tony Gunawan (l) and Chandra Wijaya.

Indonesia: Courting Success

Indonesia's modest Olympic ambitions rise and fall with the fate of its badminton players — as is evident from the size of the team for Sydney. Indonesia will send about 45 athletes, almost half of them in badminton, with the rest divided between 10 sports. "It's the only game we play at world level," says Leo Wiranata, secretary-general of the Badminton Association.

In 1966, badminton accounted for all four Indonesian medals: a gold in the men's doubles, a silver for the women's singles and a bronze each in the women's singles and men's doubles. This year, the best chance of glory will come in the men's doubles, with three top-seeded pairs led by first-ranked Tony Gunawan and Chandra Wijaya. Gunawan helped lead Indonesia to victory in the Thomas Cup in May in Kuala Lumpur. Taking a medal in the men's singles should be almost a given. Indonesia lays claim to second-ranked Hendrawan and third-ranked Taufik Hidayat, the young star of singles play at the Thomas Cup.

But tough competition from Denmark, China and Malaysia makes Wiranata cautious. "There are a lot of good opponents," he says. "We hope and pray, but it's sport, not mathematics." Wiranata knows about winning and losing, and not just as a sports administrator. His son, Ardy, was one of Indonesia's top players and now coaches the U.S. badminton team.

The women's side is far weaker, in contrast to past years, when Indonesia had the world's top player, Susi Susanti, gold medal winner in the singles in Barcelona and bronze medallist in Atlanta. Susi has retired and her replacement, Mia Audina, silver medallist in Atlanta, has married and moved to the Netherlands, for whom she now plays. Their departures have left Indonesia with not one woman in the top 10. "There are no great players in either singles or doubles," says Lukman Natanagara, sports editor of the Jakarta Post. "They can't compete with the Chinese."

Off the court, Indonesia's best medal chances could come in women's weightlifting, says Rudolf Warouw, secretary-general of the Indonesian National Olympic Committee. Sri Indriyani was the 1997 world junior champion in the 48-kg class, while colleague Winarni Binti Slamet was the 1997 world senior champion in the 53-kg group. Both came second in last year's World Championships in Athens. Good performances are also expected from sprinter John Muray in the 100 meters, swimmer Richard Sam Bera and windsurfer I Gusti Made Sulaksana.

Like everything else in Indonesia, sport has been hit by the devastating economic crisis. Government funds have been in short supply and corporate sponsorship has dried up. The most serious consequence, says Lukman, has been less overseas training and reduced international exposure.

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