The Clash of Powerhouses – Sudirman Cup in the 90s

Tuesday, May 7, 2019
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BWF ARCHIVES

Park Joo Bong (front) distinguished himself in the Sudirman Cup in the first three editions.

The Nineties were a fascinating era in Sudirman Cup history, which saw captivating battles between powerhouses Indonesia, China, Korea and Denmark.

Korea were narrowly denied the Sudirman Cup in 1989 by Indonesia, but they surged to the top in the next two editions.

Korea’s capture of the World Mixed Team Championships in 1991 and 1993 was built on their strength in doubles, with Park Joo Bong as the pivotal figure.

Both semifinals in the 1991 edition went down to the wire, with Indonesia beating Denmark and Korea overcoming China by 3-2 margins.

The 1991 final in Copenhagen featured the finalists of the 1989 title clash. Indonesia had the big guns in singles, in the form of Ardy Wiranata and Susi Susanti. Both won their matches to give the defending champions a 2-1 lead, but Korea’s women’s doubles of Chung So Young and Hwang Hye Young came to their rescue.

It was then left to the final men’s doubles, and Park and Kim Moon Soo made no mistake in blowing away Eddy Hartono and Rudy Gunawan in straight games to give their team their first title.

The big four teams once again made the semifinals of the 1993 edition in Birmingham. Once again, both semifinals were hard-fought, with Indonesia overcoming China 3-2 and Korea getting past Denmark by the same score.

It was the third straight final between Indonesia and Korea. Once again the pattern from 1991 repeated, with Korea taking the mixed doubles through Park and Gil Young Ah, and Indonesia winning both their singles through Ardy Wiranata and Susi Susanti.

Chung So Young and Gil Young Ah saved two championship points to set Korea on their way to victory in 1993.

Indonesia had a golden chance to take the title with Lili Tampi and Finarsih leading 14-10 in the second game after taking the first, and served two match points. But the Koreans dug in and after a marathon encounter, which lasted 98 minutes, Chung and Gil celebrated their come-from-behind victory.

Park Joo Bong and Kim Moon Soo were expected to beat Rudy Gunawan and Ricky Subagja and they did, in straight games, to give Korea their second Sudirman Cup title. Park had come back from retirement for the Sudirman Cup, and he didn’t disappoint his team.

Indonesia still had a formidable team in 1995, while China were on the way up with a youthful contingent.

The defending champions, minus their talisman Park Joo Bong, fell 4-1 in the semifinals to Indonesia, while Denmark were beaten by the same score by China.

It was the turn of China’s young guns to fire on the day. Ge Fei and Gu Jun wore down Resiana Zelin and Eliza Nathaneal in women’s doubles. The big surprise was the capitulation of Susi Susanti to Ye Zhaoying. Heryanto Arbi was expected to take the men’s singles, but Sun Jun outwitted him in a classic battle, 15-7 9-15 15-12.

From that point on, China would be unbeaten in the mixed team event until 2015 – with the only exception being 2003, when they lost the final to Korea.

By Glasgow 1997, China had consolidated their gains. China’s hardest battle in 1997 was in the semi-finals against Indonesia, which they only narrowly won 3-2 thanks to their indomitable women’s doubles pair of Ge Fei and Gu Jun.

Korea in the final posed no problems for China as they wrapped the tie 5-0. Liu Yong and Ge Fei gave them the lead over Kim Dong Moon/Ra Kyung Min. Dong Jiong and Gong Zhichao steamrolled their opponents in the singles to clinch the tie. China showed no mercy in the two inconsequential matches, winning them both in straight games.

China with the Sudirman Cup in 1997.

It was a harder battle for China in Copenhagen 1999. They scraped past Korea in the semifinals, with Liu Yong and Ge Fei winning a tight fifth match.

Denmark, playing at home and hunting for their first world team title, ran China close. The hosts were up 1-0 and Camilla Martin had her chances to make it 2-0 in the women’s singles, but Dai Yun held firm and got China back into the contest.

From there it was China all the way, with Sun Jun beating Peter Gade and Zhang Jun/Yu Jinhao stopping Jens Eriksen/Jesper Larsen in straight games to ensure China’s hat-trick of Sudirman Cup titles.