Susilo surfaces on court again

Six years after hanging up his racket, Ronald Susilo is making a comeback - and a run for the June 5-16 SEA Games on home ground next year.

The former national shuttler, who retired shortly after the 2008 Olympics, has begun training with the national team and plans to get back onto the international competition circuit soon.

"I want to give it a shot since the SEA Games will be at home next year," the 34-year-old, who won a singles bronze at the 2003 Vietnam edition, told The Straits Times yesterday.

All it took to spur the 2005 Sportsman of the Year and two-time Olympian to pick up his racket again was an hour in front of the television last month, watching the India Open final in which world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei defeated No. 2 Chen Long.

"I'm usually too busy for television and haven't watched much badminton since I stopped playing," said Susilo, still the only man to have beaten Lin Dan at the Olympics when he defeated the Chinese great at the Athens Games in 2004.

"I just wanted to see the standard of players nowadays and felt inspired to play again after watching that match."

Despite persistent injuries to his shoulder, knee and Achilles tendon, Susilo was for many years Singapore's undisputed No. 1 male shuttler.

He is also one of the most successful, with the 2004 Japan Open, a major title, to his name, and a world ranking that peaked at No. 6 the same year.

With a wealth of experience to rely on, Susilo, who has devoted most of his time since retirement to running his own badminton academy, is more concerned about putting his battered body through the rigours of high-intensity training again.

"It's totally different now," he noted of the body aches that he already feels.

"Coming out of retirement is not going to be easy. I lack power and stamina.

"I have to build them up again and observe my body condition."

While he said his comeback was motivated mainly by his own desire to compete again, Susilo felt he also had something to bring to the table to help the national team's current stable of younger and less experienced players.

"There have been players leaving (the team) recently and they lack senior players to guide them," he said, referring to the recent departures that include men's singles player Ashton Chen, men's doubles player Terry Yeo and Gu Juan in the women's singles.

He said: "I also want to contribute and help support the young ones."

The Singapore Badminton Association, while acknowledging the boost that Susilo's addition will bring to the team, also made it clear that he still has to earn his place.

Said chief executive officer Ronnie Lim: "We welcome any Singaporean who can contribute to Team Singapore and will assess his suitability accordingly.

"We are currently in the process of working out a competition schedule to prepare him for competing at the highest level."

"As time draws closer to (the) SEA Games, we will conduct selection trials to give everybody a fair chance of participation."

Susilo declined to be a part of Singapore's Thomas Cup squad - the world team championships for men begins on Sunday in New Delhi - as his wife is expected to give birth to their second child soon.

He also admits it might be hard for him to earn a good enough world ranking in time for the Commonwealth and Asian Games later this year.

But he said: "To me, winning is a bonus. What I cherish most is the journey towards achieving the result. I'm now a 'retiree'.

"If I can make it back into the team, that's another achievement."

This article was published on May 16 in The Straits Times.

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