The qualifications are over, the invites are sent; we can see athletes standing on the brink of greatness. Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon are world #1 and two players who have the talent and ambition to win Gold.
The Men’s Doubles contest will be edge-of-the-seat stuff for fans as the Minions style naturally amplifies the intensity of matches. Sukamuljo plays without restraint; his split-second analysis and retaliation raises the pulse of the spectators and the game. He is the architect of a controlled mayhem within the boundaries of the court– his high tempo style is so unpredictable yet it never seems to wrong-foot his partner. Kevin is an entertainer who loves to show what he can do. He is an extraordinary competitor who has been set free to express his talent because of his wonderful relationship on court with Marcus.
Marcus Gideon is the anchor of the partnership. Behind the mercurial Kevin his work rate at the back of the court is huge. Kevin’s random creativity fits well with Marcus and their chemistry together is magic. I adore the way their energy sparks drama around the net. If opponents are not broken by the fast flat game extra pressure rests on Gideon. Clever rivals neutralise them with shots that are designed to disarm their aggression and it’s obvious that this tests their patience.
Nothing is certain in the Olympic arena except that the path to the podium will be unforgiving. The competition begins with 16 pairs made into four groups each headed by one of the top 4 qualifiers. It’s vital that they bring a single-minded focus to the court because only the top four are kept apart at this stage. This means that a group could contain Astrup/Rasmussen, Kamura/Sonoda, and LEE/WANG. We’ll find out more about this when the draw is held prior to the start of the competition but the possibility exists for some brutal opening matches.
I think their main challenge is finding a way to beat pairs like Endo/Watanabe who can withstand the flat fast game. Yuta can engage with Kevin at the net and the Japanese understand that by taking the pace off the shuttle they can exert sustained pressure to frustrate the Indonesian pair. Lifting high to the back of the court is a strategy we see used to blunt Sukamuljo’s attack. There’s no doubt that Kevin’s ambitious vision is the key to victory so long as his partner can keep the shuttle in play. His perception of space, and his anticipation of it opening up, could be what sets them on the road to glory. His agile badminton intellect fused with a ‘quiet eye’ and the physical ability to execute the shot will make the difference. The phenomenon of ‘quiet eye’ is well-known in sport psychology – it’s that tracking gaze fixed on a target just before a decisive movement. It’s analytical observation that knows what is important and when it’s important.
What does the Olympic tournament hold for the Minions? There is a huge weight of expectation that rests on their shoulders and their coaches and fans have to protect them – as far as possible – from unnecessary pressure that could dilute their focus. They have to be able to compete with a quiet mind. I don’t mean that we should expect the Olympics to be a picnic for them but I want stress to be fuel for great performances. There is no inevitability to progress. Can they take on Japan’s finest and defuse the threat? Taiwan and China will be tough opponents and of course, if things go well the seeding could unwind as far as an all-Indonesian final.
The Indonesian system routinely delivers standout players who have incomparable technical skills fused with great defence and they compete with flair and spirit. Fans all over the world are longing to see the top seeds at the top of the podium but it’s likely that this will be an event that demands more from them than any other. Men’s Doubles is going to be a fierce contest between equals so the players who adapt quickly to the conditions in the hall and the odd empty atmoshere will be at an advantage. Kevin and Marcus won at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza back in 2019 and this will be their opportunity to cement their legendary staus in badminton. Good luck, play well, have fun & no injuries!
If you enjoyed this then take a look at this article from my archives about the Minions https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2019/11/29/the-minions-indonesian-superheroes/
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