While Indonesia has been among the world’s badminton powerhouses for decades, none of the past prominent shuttlers hailed from the Island of Gods. A teenager from Bali is rising to prominence at this year’s Uber Cup to change that narrative.
Born in Denpasar on Oct. 21, 2002, Komang Ayu Cahya Dewi is currently ranked 203rd in the world, but she is the highest-ranked player in the women’s singles category for the Indonesian squad at the competition.
The Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI) decided to task the youngsters for this year’s female team as the seniors have set their focus on securing gold medals at the 2022 SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Nineteen-year-old Komang Ayu is touted to be the next big thing for the Indonesian team after she managed to win both of her Uber Cup matches in the past week. Leading her team against both France and Germany, Komang Ayu managed to beat 43rd-ranked Qi Xuefei and 25th-ranked Yvonne Li respectively.
Komang, who joined legendary badminton club PB Djarum in 2016 at the age of 14, became the talk of the badminton community after securing silver at the Indonesian National Games last year.
She was also impressive at this year’s Badminton Asia Championship held in Manila several weeks ago by beating China’s Han Yue and gave world number 1 Akane Yamaguchi from Japan a run for her money. Yamaguchi narrowly defeated Komang with the score of 21-23, 22-9, 21-19. It should be noted that Komang was ranked 317th at the time.
Komang lost to China’s number 1 Chen Yufei in the opening match between a formidable China and Indonesia in the quarterfinals. Despite the disappointment, the fact that Komang fell to an Olympic gold medalist may mark Indonesia’s return to become a force to be reckoned with in the women’s category.
The chairman of the Bali chapter of PBSI, Wayan Winurjaya, told Coconuts he is proud of Komang Ayu’s achievements. He added that she serves as an example as to why talent spotters should pay attention to young players from Bali.
Wayan highlighted other Balinese women’s singles players Made Deya Surya Saraswati and Ni Made Pranita Sulistya Devi, both aged 24, who were born and trained at small clubs in Bali yet managed to shine on the national level. Both Balinese players even met in the finals of the 2015 Djarum’s national circuit.
However, Wayan said that both players are not favored compared to other players while they were on the national team.
“Both [Made Deya and Made Pranita] have been impressive since they were kids but they have never been given a chance to compete internationally while they were on the national team,” he said.
“There are many junior players in Bali who are just as talented [as Komang Ayu],” he added.
Other Indonesian youngsters in the squad have also impressed spectators and commentators with their fighting spirit at Uber Cup. Bilqis Prasista, 18, impressively beat Yamaguchi in the fixture between Indonesia and Japan. The daughter of badminton legends Joko Suprianto and Zelin Resiana, who have won the Thomas and Uber Cup for the Indonesian team, respectively, has been a breath of fresh air on the court.
Indonesia won the Uber Cup in 1994 and 1996 during its golden period for women’s badminton. At the time, Indonesia was able to count on legends such as Olympic gold medalist Susy Susanti and silver medalist Mia Audina. Since then, the women’s team has been struggling to hit the same heights at the competition, mainly due to lack of confidence in their players and injuries.
This year, Indonesia eventually lost to China in the quarterfinals, but the young guns have shown that they are here for the long run. Bilqis, who played in the third match, managed to push another Chinese top player, He Bingjiao, to three sets.
As the BWF badminton social media account puts it, the kids are alright. In this case, the Indonesian kids.