Bucking the trend

Bucking the trend
Taufik Hidayat, Indonesian badminton player, appointed as Indonesia's SEA (South-east Asia) Games chef de mission (CDM).

How does it feel to be appointed Indonesia's SEA (South-east Asia) Games chef de mission (CDM)? Did it come as a surprise, considering Indonesia's tradition of appointing military CDMs in the past?

TAUFIK: As a former athlete, being appointed CDM is a big honour, and at the same time, a big responsibility. I never expected to be given this responsibility for the 2015 SEA Games, even though I was hoping someday an athlete would have the opportunity to become CDM.

How do you feel now as an official, instead of being out on the courts jumping and smashing?

This is a totally new experience for me, especially leading not only the badminton team, but also the entire Indonesian contingent for the 2015 SEA Games. Being appointed as an official brings a different challenge and (requires different) preparation. This gives me a great opportunity to learn so many things that I had never experienced when I was an athlete.

This is also my opportunity to do my best to serve all Indonesian athletes as a CDM. There have been a spate of high-profile doping cases in the world of sport recently. What are your thoughts on this issue? We must be careful with the doping problem. Nowadays, you can fall victim in a number of ways, even if you don't mean to cheat. So athletes have to be really careful with what they eat or drink.

What have you heard about the facilities in Singapore and the concept of a "Games in a City", which is Singapore's strategy for this year's SEA Games?

Singapore has a lot of experience hosting successful international events, like the Formula 1 night race which is held in the city centre. This "Games in The City" concept is a unique one which I'm looking forward to experience. You have said you will learn on the job. What is your job scope as Indonesia's CDM and how do you think your experience as a former athlete helps?

I believe as an athlete who has had experience in multi-event tournaments, I can give my point of view and share my past experiences on how to prepare for this big event.

Also, as CDM I will do my best to make sure all the Indonesian athletes have their needs taken care of during this Games. They must be healthy, fit, focused and motivated to give their best. Indonesia have set a gold-medal target of between 72 and 79. Your country has not finished on top of the medal tally on foreign soil since 1993.

Do you think this could be Indonesia's year? 

To set a gold-medal target is not in the CDM's job scope. My main job is to make sure all the athletes' basic needs are taken care of and fulfilled, so they can give their best performances and attain the highest (possible) achievement for Indonesia. Indonesian badminton has decided to field its young guns instead of the veterans for this SEA Games.

Are Indonesia still favourites to win in the individual and team event?

I believe in the fresh young athletes in the Indonesian team for this SEA Games. We will still be a tough team to beat in the individual and team events. Even though they are young, their motivation and effort will be the same as any senior player. After all, I was also a young gun when I won my first SEA Games gold medal in 1999.

You have won the Olympics, World Championships, Thomas Cup and Asian Games. 

Indonesia's struggles to return to their glory days well documented, with some saying you are the last of your country's truly outstanding shuttlers. Are the problems affecting development still present, or are there young guns set to break through?

We still have great shuttlers in the mixed doubles and men's doubles, but I have to accept the fact that Indonesia are still struggling compared to other countries. Any change or improvement cannot be achieved in a short time. But I have high hopes that one day a young Indonesian will achieve more than me.

Why do you think Singapore are struggling to produce world-class badminton players, and what do you think can be done to raise the level of the sport here?

I don't think I'm in the right position to comment on Singapore badminton's development, but, over the past few years, there have been a lot surprises and unpredictable results in the badminton world. For example, Japan winning the Thomas Cup and Spain's Carolina Marin winning the women's World Championships.

So, in the future, maybe a Singaporean shuttler can also be a world champion or even win an Olympic gold.

This article was first published on June 4, 2015.
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