Match 1 goes to Thailand’s Saensomboonsuk as a dejected Jonatan accepts his fate. Photo: Randi Ang / SINGSOC
Following the exhilarating conclusion between Malaysia and Thailand for the women’s team finals earlier in the day, the Badminton men’s team finals saw Thailand, once again in the finals, facing off against Indonesia for the much coveted gold medal.
Indonesia has proven her expertise and competency by being the overall champion of the sport in the past 5 Southeast Asian Games (since 1995), yet Thailand has already bagged herself a gold medal at the women’s team event at these Games. Will Thailand be able to put an end to Indonesia’s reign?
The fight for this Gold medal began with Indonesia’s Christie Jonatan and Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk. The crowd was sent into a frenzy barely 10 minutes into the match as the duo was matched neck and neck despite their 7-year age gap. At the 20-minute mark, they began to pull apart with Thailand in the lead. Saensomboonsuk – the more experienced player - eventually won the first set. In the second set, the younger player tried all his might to draw their scores closer, and his sweat-inducing effort was starting to prove effective at the 18-19 mark. This, however, pushed Seansomboonsuk into a putting up a harder fight, and he eventually won the set within the next 5 minutes, sealing the match 2-0 for Thailand (21-17, 21-19).
Following the Thai’s victory was a doubles battle between Indonesia’s Karandasuwardi-Pratama, and Thais Issara-Puangpuapech. Several minutes into the first set, the Indonesian duo with a world ranking of 18 proved to be tough opponents as they led the set by a whopping 5 points over the other pair. Indonesia won this match 2-0 (21-15, 21-13).
The third match is a contest of youth versus experience, in which the Indonesian Firman Abdul Kholik, aged 17, went up against the Thai veteran shuttler Ponsana Boonsak who is almost double his age. Likewise the first match, experience emerged victorious and Thailand won this match 2-0 (21-7, 21-14).
The fight for the championship saw a continuation into a doubles match, between Indonesian Gideon-Sukamuljo and Thai Ampunsuwan-Vilailak. Set One’s first two points were scored by Thailand but in mere minutes, the other team caught up and turned the tables at 4-2. In next few moments, both teams were at a deadlock of 5-5! The scores were never more than 3 points apart and this tight set - the most exciting one of the evening yet - drove the audience wild, cheering and yelling at every point scored and missed by the players. The set went to Indonesia at 21-19.
Thai shuttler Vilailak in full concentration, bracing for Gideon’s powerful smash. Photo: Randi Ang / SINGSOC
After their defeat, the Thais put up a stronger fight in the second set and were leading their opponents for the most part, eventually winning it 21-18. However, the duo seemed to have expanded all their energy in the next set, which went to Indonesia at 21-14, putting both countries at a tie for the overall event.
Who will be the champion?
The next singles match between Indonesian Ihsan Maulana Mustofa and Thai Suppanyu Avihingsanon would seal their nation’s fate for the Men’s Team event, two and a half hours after the first set began.
The crowd erupted into cheers as Avihingsanon scored the first point, but Mustofa quickly caught up to him within seconds. Both shuttlers’ emotions were writ all over their faces with every point scored, which further egged on the crowd with their cheers of encouragement. Avihingsanon has a highest world ranking of 41 whereas his opponent is ranked 42 spots below him, yet the younger Indonesian player proved to be an up-and-coming strong force in the field as he gave Avihingsanon a very difficult time despite winning the first set 22-20.
Indonesia’s Mustofa may have fallen but he fights on. Photo: Randi Ang / SINGSOC
Mustofa, perhaps pushed to the edge by his loss, quickly score the first two points in the second set. He continued to lead the game and subsequently earned a 21-16 win against the Thai athlete, driving the match into a 1-1 tie.
The third set was led by Mustofa once again and both shuttlers showcased their exemplary moves and skills as the battle went into fever mode. The Indonesian’s relentless fighting spirit drew him further ahead in the set, and at his peak, he led the Thai veteran by 12 points, winning the final set 21-9.
A jubilant Mustofa yelling for joy at winning his nation’s Gold. Photo: Randi Ang / SINGSOC
Indonesia is crowned the Men’s Team champion 3-2, with Thailand bringing home the Silver medal. The Bronze medals go to neighbouring countries Malaysia and Singapore.
The Badminton games continue tomorrow in the Singapore Indoor Stadium at 2pm with the Men’s and Mixed Doubles matches.
This authors of this article are volunteer content producers with Team Nila. For more content produced by Team Nila, please head to the 28th SEA Games Social Wall.