Indonesian history makers Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu : "We make a perfect combination"
The badminton players became the first women's doubles pair from their nation to clinch gold at the Olympics, making Indonesia only the second country behind China to have claimed titles in all five events.
For 34-year-old Polii and 23-year-old Rahayu, it was a dream come true to be standing on the top step of the podium. The duo shared exclusively with Olympics.com how they used their differences to their advantage to clinch an historic victory.
"Apriyani has the strength of a young person. She has more power and is physically stronger. I have more experience, I'm stronger in strategy, as well as my thoughts on how we approach a match. So, we make a perfect combination." - Greysia Polii to Olympics.com
A partnership of experience and youth
Tokyo 2020 was Polii's third Olympic outing, and perhaps her most unlikely. The 34-year-old had considered quitting the sport after each of her previous two Games for different reasons.
On her Olympic debut at London 2012, she and then partner Meiliana Jauhari, along with three other pairs, were disqualified from the tournament after they failed to use their best efforts to win a match in an attempt to manipulate the result for a more favourable position in the knockout stages.
However, she persevered and returned for her second Olympic outing with Nitya Krishinda Maheswari at Rio 2016. Their medal hopes ended in the quarter-finals, and shortly after, Maheswari underwent surgery.
Without a partner, Polii contemplated throwing in the towel, but was convinced by a coach to stay on and help train the junior players.
"OK, I'll stay for another six months to a year. After that, I can retire," she recalls telling herself.
But after partnering with Rahayu, who was just 19-years-old when she joined the national team in 2017, they immediately gelled as a pairing and within six months had broken into the top ten of the world rankings.
The combination of experience and youth was paying dividends.
"I don't really think about her age and that she's much older than me. I tend to focus on myself so I can become a stronger player." - Apriyani Rahayu to Olympics.com
Despite an age gap of over 10 years, they have found a way to maximise their strengths on court.
"The keys to our success is perseverance and harmony. As well as the communication and trust between the two of us. All this makes us a very solid team" Polii shares.
A memorable Olympic debut for Rahayu
For Rahayu, winning Olympic gold at her maiden Games still feels like a dream, but she was quick to point out that there is still more that she wants to achieve in her career.
"Honestly, I still can't believe this is real. Because I never imagined I'd win gold at the Olympics" Rahayu admits adding, "But I also feel proud, considering I'm only 23 years old. And I don't want to be complacent."
Whether the duo return at Paris 2024 to defend their title still remains unknown.
Polii will be close to turning 37 by the time the next edition of the Games come around, and given that she got married last December, might be tempted to retire on a high at the end of this season.
For now though, Polii and Rahayu are happy to bask in the glory of their achievement, celebrating becoming the first women's doubles Olympic champions in their country.
"We're happy because this success also belongs to the Indonesian people." - Greysia Polii to Olympics.com