TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - UNTIL last week, three Indonesian pairs are in the world’s top-five doubles. Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, who clinched eight titles this year, are ranked number one, followed by senior pair Hendra Setiawan/Mohammad Ahsan in second position, and Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto in fifth.
This accomplishment is inseparable from the role of Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI) men’s doubles coach Herry Iman Pierngadi. Under Herry, 57, Indonesia’s men’s doubles have dominated this year's Super 1000 tournaments – international tournaments that offer total prize money of about US$1 million – namely All England, Indonesia Open and China Open. Hendra/Ahsan even won the 2019 Badminton World Championship title. It is the best achievement of Indonesia’s badminton men’s doubles in recent years. Since joining national training center of PBSI in 1993, Herry has brought his players to win the Olympic, Asian Games and world championship. “In my career, I’ve attained all of them. I’ve gone full circle, said Herry in a special interview with Tempo, Thursday, November 21.
That afternoon, Herry was busy coaching his disciples at PBSI’s training center in Cipayung, East Jakarta. Fajar Alfian backhanded a smash from the pair Mohammad Ahsan and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon. There were continuous front attacks, left and right. “Jar, step up your defense,” Herry said to Fajar, who just barely returned the shuttlecock several times.
Herry was coaching defense techniques to Fajar, who will be paired with Rian in the upcoming SEA Games in the Philippines from December 1-9. Hands on his hips and glancing at his wristwatch, this man who is usually addressed as Koh Herry was walking from one field to the next.
After three hours of technical training, Herry received Tempo journalists Mahardika Satria Hadi and Aisha Shaidra. For two hours, this father of three whose hobby is keeping hummingbirds spoke about many topics: from his activities as a coach, players’ regeneration, to challenges in coaching millennial athletes. Excerpts:
How do you see the current developments in badminton?
In the past two years, power has shifted quite a bit. In men’s doubles, Denmark used to be one of our fiercest competitors. Now Denmark’s achievement has declined. South Korea also used to be strong, and now it only has one strong pair. While we were used to either winning or losing, our men’s doubles have been dominant in the past two years.
What about China?
China used to be dominant, but that is also changing. Their head coach was Li Yongbo, but he has been replaced in the past two years. Maybe there is a change in their system or a decline in their achievements.
China’s achievements are down?
Their doubles and women’s singles have declined quite a bit. They are strong in mixed doubles.
Which country is the toughest opponent?
It used to be China, but they have surrendered. We used to have an ongoing fight with the pair Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen. Lately, however, they have been slacking off and keep losing. They used to compete with Kevin/Gideon, but now they even loose against Fajar/Rian.
Does this mean we have no opponents?
Of course, we do. It doesn’t mean that we are stronger, that’s not the case. Let’s not think like that.
What is the advantage of Indonesia’s men’s doubles?
Men’s doubles’ world players already know Indonesia’s way of playing. We are known for net playing. We are superior in this, it’s our specialization. Athletes from other countries have to think twice when playing Indonesia. We play with a lot of technique. Others rely more on power and speed.
What is the source of the Indonesian players’ unique style?
Most of our badminton venues are using air conditioners. There are winds factor, whether you play against or in the direction of the wind. Then the physical shapes of Indonesian players are different from those of Korean and Chinese who are bigger and stronger. So we use techniques to compensate it, do not rely on power at all times.
When this technique was first developed?
I am carrying forward Koh Chris (Christian Hadinata) strategies; one of them is no lob. But I developed it further with more variations and details. Before, under Koh Chris directions, they had only two patterns. Now I have four to five net playing techniques.
Players from other countries don’t adopt the style of Indonesian athletes?
Malaysia and India have started to adopt this style since the coaches used to work under me.
Can their players follow this style?
Some can, and others can’t. But I continue to scrutinize their weaknesses. For example, India’s doubles have advanced quite a bit. We have teams that record tournaments. We study their weaknesses. When it’s time for us to compete, I relay this information to my players.
Who decides who gets to train under you?
I make that decision.
What are the standards?
One of them is stroke quality, since strokes for doubles and singles are different. I can see if a player has a talent for doubles. The basic stroke for doubles must be there.
What kind of stroke is this double’s stroke?
It’s more of a drive stroke, the shuttle should not lob. The smash must have a lot of power. Net play has to be good. However, these talents alone are not enough, and do not guarantee success for players. Much more important than those traits is the character.
What kind of character is needed?
Discipline, motivation, fighting spirit. If one is talented but lazy, and has no discipline, then forget about it.
Do you often come across these kinds of players?
There are plenty like these, (laughs). In my experience, those kinds of players only last about a year, and then they leave (the national training center).
How long does it take before the players show their true characters?
Usually, it’s apparent within one or two years. It also depends on how lucky they are. For example, if training goes well, then they don’t get hurt. When they are about to go to a tournament, then they fall ill. Some are like that.
How do you approach your players?
This depends on the athlete because every individual is different. I have to be able to see through their characters. They must also understand my character. All of us must learn together.
Do you also discuss topics outside of the playing field?
We even discuss romance, although we keep it light. I am a coach, but I also have the duty to look after them. Some romances support their game and they become even better, but some relationships do the exact opposite. We have so many stories, one can write a book about them.
Can you share a memorable story?
One of my players was dating another athlete. I saw that the latter was a distraction to my player.
Read the full interview in Tempo English Magazine