Sports

Apriyani Rahayu

Apriyani Rahayu’s gold-medal doubles victory with partner Greysia Polii at the Tokyo Olympics was the best gift for badminton-crazy Indonesia, made all the more poignant by the athletes’ arduous journey from childhood poverty to sporting superstardom

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Apriyani Rahayu was born in a remote settlement in Konawe Regency, Sulawesi, 1,827 kilometres away from Jakarta. Her father, Ameruddin Pora, was an agricultural worker who was instrumental in developing Rahayu’s badminton skills. He was her first trainer—using a home-made racquet made of wood and fishing lines—until Rahayu’s move to Jakarta at the age of 13.

To her father’s delight, Rahayu rose up the ranks of Indonesia’s badminton elite as a doubles partner, gaining podium positions at a number of prestigious tournaments along the way, and eventually being paired with older player Greysia Polii. But at the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021, the duo’s journey culminated in tearful joy in the most dramatic of women’s doubles finals as they defeated the formidable 2017 world champions from China.

Rahayu and Polii become the first unseeded pair, and the first Indonesians, to bag gold in the women’s doubles, as well as only the third and fourth Indonesian women to become Olympic gold medallists.

There’s more to smile about after that victory: Rahayu’s Instagram followers swelled to a million, a sports training centre in Jakarta now bears her name and there’s a brand ambassadorship deal with VIVO.

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