A powerful Indonesian team, playing at home, scripted a fairytale victory at the inaugural Sudirman Cup 30 years ago, with Susi Susanti inspiring the team’s memorable comeback in the final.
The Sudirman Cup was donated by the PBSI (Persatuan Bulutangkis Seluruh Indonesia) in memory of their founder and longtime President Dick Sudirman, who played a key role in unifying the breakaway World Badminton Federation with the International Badminton Federation. The Cup was a magnificent piece of workmanship – made of gold-plated solid silver and standing 80 cm high, its body was shaped like a shuttlecock, the lid designed after Indonesia’s famous Borobudur temple.
The inaugural edition was held the week before the World Championships and was played in the intense heat and humidity of Jakarta, which tested the fitness and mental fortitude of the players.
Six top teams in contention for the title were in Group 1 – Indonesia, Korea, China, Denmark, Sweden and England. These were divided into A (Indonesia, Korea, England) and B (China, Denmark, Sweden). Groups 2, 3, 4 and 5 had four teams each, while Groups 6 and 7 had three teams each.
A report in World Badminton Magazine illustrated the challenge facing the players: “The first thing that hits you is the heat… After only a few rallies clothes become wet through, and it was necessary to regularly stop play to wipe brows and sip some water. After the first game many players changed their shirts, for a dry one. But again shortly afterwards it was wet through… Yes it was hot work for all involved, but especially for the players. There was no escape from this oven!”
One of the significant results in the group stage was Sweden’s 5-0 defeat of England in the tie between the bottom-placed teams of groups 1A and 1B (the “relegation round”) – which meant England ended bottom of Group 1 and were relegated to Group 2 for the next Sudirman Cup. Their place in Group 1 at the next edition was taken by Japan, who topped Group 2.
Indonesia and China were the most impressive teams in the group stage. Indonesia carried their form into the semifinals, blanking Denmark 5-0, but there was a surprise in store in the other semifinal, as Korea upset China 3-2. China were up 2-0 thanks to singles wins by Han Aiping and Yang Yang, but Korea fought back through the mixed doubles and women’s doubles. Tian Bingyi sat out the last rubber and his partner Li Yongbo combined with Chen Kang against Park Joo Bong and Kim Moon Soo. The Koreans outgunned the Chinese and were through to the final.
Indonesia had beaten Korea 4-1 in the group stage, but the final was much harder. Eddy Hartono and Rudy Gunawan ran Park and Kim close in the opening men’s doubles, but the Koreans proved their mastery in the thriller to win in three close games: 15-9 8-15 15-13.
Korea took a step closer to the title as they dominated the women’s doubles, with Hwang Hye Young/Chung So Young overpowering Verawaty Fajirin/Yanti Kusmiati 15-12 15-6.
Trailing 0-2, Indonesia had their backs to the wall in the women’s singles. Susi Susanti’s young opponent Lee Young Suk matched her formidable rival, taking the first game and leading 10-7 in the second. Susanti pulled it back at this point with some inspired defending to take the game 12-10. Her distraught opponent was in tears when she returned from the changing room for the third game and was in no position to mount a challenge as Susanti ran away with the match: 10-12 12-10 11-0.
Eddy Kurniawan then helped Indonesia level the score as he destroyed Sung Han Kook’s challenge 15-4 15-3 in the men’s singles.
It was then down to Eddy Hartono and Verawaty Fajirin for Indonesia against Park Joo Bong and Chung Myung Hee for Korea. After a close first game, which the Indonesians won after ‘setting’, the second was anti-climactic, with the Korean challenge collapsing at 15-3. Indonesia had made history winning the first Sudirman Cup.