WHERE ARE THEY NOW : Susy Susanti still contributes to badminton

She was known as queen of badminton in the early to mid 1990s. Barcelona Olympics Gold Medal in 1992 and world champion’s crown in 1993 were her highest individual achievements […]

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She was known as queen of badminton in the early to mid 1990s. Barcelona Olympics Gold Medal in 1992 and world champion’s crown in 1993 were her highest individual achievements during her ten years career. Since she left the world of badminton in 1998 due to her pregnancy, this four times All England winner has become a housewife and enjoys spending her time with her husband, 1992 Olympic gold medallist for men’s singles, Alan Budikusuma, and her cute children: Laurencia Averina (10), Albertus Edward (9) and Sebastianus Fredrick (6). Still, she can’t eliminate badminton from her life by arranging annual tournament with Alan.

By: Vini Damayanti, Badzine Corresspondent. Photos: Vini, J-Flo, Badmintonphoto, archives

susy3Family comes first

The first thing that struck when entering the living room of Susy’s beautiful house in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, is a big family picture of her, Alan and their three children. On the other side of the wall, there was also her wedding picture. No picture of old times when she was THE badminton star. The most important thing to Susy now is her loving family.

If you ask me about my daily routine now, I would say that I spend most of my time for my family. Every morning I prepare the children needs before they go to school and in the afternoon I go to their school to bring lunch. When they are home, I help them to do their homework. I love and enjoy being a mother,” she said excitedly.

Eleven years after quitting from the Indonesian national team and dedicating her life for the family, doesn’t mean that Susy stopped playing badminton. She still plays twice a week with people in her neighborhood to keep her body healthy. But she admits that now she doesn’t have strong stamina as before. “Even Laurencia, Albertus and Sebastianus, better than me” she says.    “My opponents now are my neighbors and most of them are older men. I still have some of my typical shots, but definitely my power and stamina are much weaker” she smiled.

susy2My children also have badminton as their exercise and they are trained by my brother. I let them play in order to maintain their physics. I think they have better skills and stamina than me now,” she laughed. “Beside badminton, they also practice swimming and self-defense sports to protect themselves from annoying kids.
Even though Alan and Susy chose sport as their careers, they do not force their children to follow the same path.

They are free to decide about their future, but they have to finish their education first. Indonesia’s government does not offer its athletes a bright future, such as comprehensive pension. Therefore it would be difficult for us to start the new life outside badminton without enough education. Therefore I want the kids to complete their studies before start working as badminton players or other professions.

Being an entrepreneur

As Susy mentioned before, many Indonesian athletes feel insecure when they retire. They usually sacrifice their education to concentrate on playing. No wonder they are confused when they retire because they have no other skills. Realizing this condition, when she was still active as a badminton player, Susy had invested some of her prize money in properties.

Since we were still playing badminton, Alan and I had already planned our future after . We invested our money in real estate, buying apartments so that we still had income even though there would be no more salary as athletes. At the same time we also started thinking about starting a business.

In 2004, Susy and Alan finally established ASTEC (Alan and Susy Technology), a sport equipment corporation, to support their family. They use materials from Japan for the rackets and produced them in China. This brand has been growing up lately and marketed in most area in Indonesia. The choice of doing a business relating to badminton shows that actually Susy can’t just eliminate badminton of her life. She confesses that she loves the sport and that she hopes to still give it a contribution.

susi2As a former player, I understand that players need their own suitable racket. A singles player needs a racket that supports fast movement, while doubles player need different one which provides more powerful shots. The players also have to choose the racket based on their individual style: defense or offense. That is actually what Alan and me are trying to create, a racket for each different player. We are directly getting involved in production process in order to produce the most suitable racket for everyone.

Beside ASTEC, the woman who was born in Tasikmalaya on February 11 in 1971 also opened a foot reflexology and sports physiotherapy center, “Fontana”. For this business, she works together with a former Indonesian badminton player, Elizabeth Latief. Now Fontana has four branches, three in Jakarta: Kelapa Gading, Sunter, Pondok Indah, plus one in Bogor.
I do have to control the business, but my main priority is still my kids. It is just about time management, you know…. While they are at school in the morning, I usually visit Fontana to make sure everything is in control. Astec is managed by Alan, now I only help him sometimes. Late afternoon I go again to the school to pick up the kids. So far I can manage my time for family and work.”

The Sacrifices

During her golden time as a badminton player, Susy won many tournaments, such as world championship in 1993, susi6All England in 1991,1992, 1993, 1994, and Barcelona Olympic Gold Medal in 1992. She also led the Indonesian team to triumph at the Uber Cup 1994 and 1996. To achieve success, she didn’t only have to practice hard everyday, but also sacrifice her youth.

I came from a family which loved playing badminton. I started when I was five and participated in some local tournaments. Then I joined Pelatnas (national training center) when I was only fourteen. At this age, the girls usually still want to have fun, go out to the mall and watch movies, unlike me who had to focus on badminton. My social life was only in badminton world and I studied at a school that was only for athletes. Honestly sometimes I felt bored with my routines and was even sick seeing a court. Can you imagine how it feels to practise badminton for eight hours a day? But then I realized that in order to be a champion, I had to work hard. I didn’t regret it, though, since it is worth with the achievement I got.”

Susy stole the attention of badminton fans when she played outstandingly in 1989 Sudirman Cup in Jakarta, and helped getting the cup to Indonesia. Since then she dominated the women’s singles event among many talented Chinese players such as Li Lingwei, Han Aiping, Huang Hua, Ye Zhaoying, Gong Zhichao until Gong Ruina. Between all her achievements, the greatest title for her obviously Barcelona Olympic’s gold medal.

It was the most memorable win for me. I gave the first gold medal for Indonesia, and in the same time Alan also won the men’s singles, so it became very special. The tips to be a successful player are hard working, fighting spirit to win and ability to manage yourself. When you get sick, instead of taking medicine, you better eat healthy and traditional food. Do not wear high-heeled shoes in order to avoid ankle injuries. I think they are the keys why I could survive for about ten years and meet five generations of Chinese players during my career.”

Another contribution for badminton

Compared to her era, the achievement of Indonesian badminton players nowadays has declined. Uber, Thomas and Sudirman Cup seem unreachable to Indonesian players. She is deeply concerned about this situation :

The situation now is different than before. Badminton has been developed in many countries so that each of their players has the equal ability. But I also have to admit that many young guns in Indonesia are not really interested in badminton. Like I said before, there is no pension or benefits offered by government for the athletes. Moreover, the process to be a champion requires some times. Due to those reasons, many young Indonesian people prefer to take instant way to be an idol or a celebrity.

susi5Financial problem is also the other reason why Indonesia is running out of potential athletes. In this country, in order to be trained, the players have to join a club which requires high fee. No wonder that many future players give up due to lack of money. Concerning with this condition, Susy and Alan decided to arrange an annual tournament for kids, teenagers and adults, Astec Open.

Through this tournament, hopefully Indonesia can find its talented future players. This year Astec Open is included in BWF calendar as a challenger tournament. It will be held next August at Tennis Indoor Senayan and we will also invite players from other countries.” When asked whether she is interested in being a coach to raise the achievements of Indonesian players, she answered ‘no’ without hesitation.

PBSI has offered me that position several times, but I have to reject it. Then when they asked me to be a team manager of Uber Cup 2008, I accepted it because it was just a temporary job and the competition was held in Jakarta. Instead of being a coach, I think I prefer give contribution for Indonesian badminton through Astec Open. Being a coach would take all my time, while in fact I don’t want to miss any upgrowth moments of my kids. As you know, it only happens once in a lifetime,” she smiled.

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