Extract from Sports the Olympics Forgot
The sport of badminton is incredibly popular in Indonesia with tens of thousands of participants in contests and competitions each year. Teams from Indonesia have won many international events such as the Thomas Cup, Uber Cup, and All England Championships and they are renowned for the accuracy of their play.
This accuracy is honed at events such as the World Shuttlecock Accuracy Championships in Djakarta each January. Since 1957, badminton players have been assessed in a number of badminton-related disciplines such as serving, smashing, smash returns, and drop shots.
In the serving tests a glass two inches in diameter and six inches high is placed at each of the four corners of the receiving court. The server has four shuttles and tries to land a shuttle in each of the glasses, scoring 3 points per shuttle that lands in a glass and an extra 3 points for landing all four. If the shuttle hits the glass the server scores 1 point. Each contestant serves two sets of four shuttles to both the forehand court and backhand court, so a maximum of 60 points is on offer. Hendra Budiarto scored 50 points in 2008, which was a record score for the serving section, and he dominated for the next three years after that with scores of 48, 45, and 47 respectively.
In the smashing event the contestant has to smash twenty shuttlecocks from
mid-court back over the net in one minute. A small two-inch wide gutter is laid around the edge of the singles court and for each shuttle landing in the gutter the contestant receives 2 points – if all 20 shuttles land in the gutter the smasher receives 5 bonus points. There are five rounds of smashing and the person with the most points wins. Rexy Kido has won this contest most often with 7 wins between 2000 and 2012 including a record score of 191 in 2004 – his approach is straightforward: “The most important aspect is accuracy not speed – there’s no point in hitting a 160mph smash if you hit it at someone’s racquet – I’d rather hit a 130mph smash on the line, where the player has to reach to play their shot and can’t really control their shot too much.”
The smash return contest is also played with the same gutter around the singles court. The national coach of the Indonesian team smashes the shuttle at each contestant twenty times in a row and the returner has to try and place the shuttlecock in the gutter, scoring three points for doing so with a bonus of five points for returning all 20 into the gutter. Again there are five rounds of returning. No one has ever landed all 20 returns in the gutter in one round; indeed only one person, Eddie Hadinata, has scored 19 – this happened in the third round of the 2007 competition.
The drop shot competition is the most delicate event and is played over five rounds. Again a gutter is used, this time three inches wide and situated six inches from the net. The gutter extends across the width of the singles court. Each player has one minute to try and land twenty shuttles into the gutter, ten from the short service line and ten from the singles long service line. Players take alternate shots from the short and long service lines, so fitness is of paramount importance. The shuttles are thrown at head height by a drop shot judge. Each shuttle landing in the gutter scores two points for the player with a bonus of 10 points for landing all 20 in the gutter, though no one has ever achieved this feat. Again Eddie Hadinata scored 19 in the fifth round in 2009, although he admits the last three were complete mishits as he was so tired: “This is the hardest event as you have to always achieve the same loop in the shot and it’s more difficult to control when you are tired and stretching to play the shot. In 2009 I mishit the last three shots but they all flopped over the net into the gutter, which meant I won the competition by two points from Roxy and Eddie.”
Each year all the points from the four events are totalled together and the person who scores the highest number of points wins the Suharto Cup. Gary Hartono has won this cup on the most occasions with 5 victories between 1998 and 2008, although he never won any of the individual events in those years. Indeed, in 2006 he won the Suharto and came third in each event, showing that all-round accuracy is the most important element in Badminton.