By Abu Hanifah
JAKARTA, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Indonesia plans to guage the abilities of the world's badminton teams, particularly those from Asian countries, in three international badminton championships prior to the 18th Asian Games slated for August 18 to September 2 in the two Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang.
The plan comes as the host country aims to win at least one gold medal from badminton in the upcoming Asiad, an Indonesian badminton coach said.
"We will evaluate our players, their potential contenders from other countries and their strategies as well in three upcoming international badminton tournaments scheduled after the Idul Fitri festivity until Asiad," Herry Iman Pirngadi, coach of the Indonesian men's doubles (MD) players, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview here on Wednesday.
The three international badminton tournaments that the Indonesian team will closely monitor are the Malaysia Open and Indonesia Open slated for June 26-July 1 and July 3-8 respectively, and the 2018 BWF Badminton World Championships slated for July 30 to August 5, he said.
Herry said that his ace players in the group, Kevin Sanjaya Sukomuljo and Markus Fernaldi Gideon, were still the most likely to win a gold medal in the Asiad.
He said that the pairing has a strong record in each of their performances both last year and this year.
Kevin and Markus broke a new world record, winning seven BWF-sanctioned SuperSeries badminton championships last year. Their excellent performance continues into this year, where they had not been defeated until in the recent Thomas Cup championship.
"He only lost a match in the recent Thomas Cup from all 4 matches where they vied in the tournament," Herry said, referring to the Kevin/Markus performance in the recent international badminton tournament held in Bangkok late last month.
Kevin and Markus lost against Thai players in a disputed match in the tournament.
The BWF No.1 Indonesian MD players won their match against Chinese players Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan, seeded no. 3 in the Thomas Cup semifinals. China went on to win the tournament after trashing Japan in the final.
"So, we are very optimistic to secure at least a gold medal in the Asiad from Kevin and Markus. We also expect to get more gold medals from other national badminton players," Herry pointed out.
Commenting on potential contenders in badminton, particularly in the MD group, Herry said that Chinese players remained the toughest ones, but were not impossible to beat.
"In the last two Asiads in 2010 and 2014 we managed to defeat Chinese players. With their proven excellent performances, I believe that Markus and Kevin can do much in Asiad. As the host country, it would be meaningful for them to bag the gold medal," he said.
Indonesian MD players Markis Kido/Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan won gold medals for the country in 2010 and 2014 Asiads held in China and South Korea respectively.
Meanwhile, an Indonesian women's doubles (MD) player assigned to play in Asiad, Greysa Polii, said that there would be not much time to prepare the team ahead of the Asiad.
She said that she would use the upcoming three international tournaments as a test bed to improve her playing skills prior to the Asiad.
"As our time is very limited due to the tight international badminton tournament schedules, I will keep up my passion to play, intensify our communications and boost our motivation," Greysa told Xinhua.
Indonesia has set target to end as a top-ten team in the upcoming Asiad, with targets to secure medals in several sports, among them badminton, weightlifting, bridge, rock climbing, jetski, archery, athletic, bowling, canoeing and rowing, cycling, paragliding, martial arts, taekwondo and wushu.
The 2018 Asian Games will be the second time for Indonesia to hold the event after 1962. Themed "Energy of Asia" the Asiad will draw over 11,000 athletes from 45 Asian countries and regions, contending in 40 sports, consisting of 32 Olympic and eight non-Olympic sports.