Paralympic badminton star Leani Ratri Oktila: The pride of Indonesia

Leani Oktila Ratri achieved a historic Para badminton double at Tokyo 2020 and came close to making it three gold medals in the three competitions she played in, read her incredible story here.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Leani Ratri Oktila thought that her badminton career was over after a motorbike accident in 2011, now ten years later she's the most successful Indonesian athlete at any single Olympic or Paralympic Games ever.

She took home two gold and a silver medal from para badminton's debut at Tokyo 2020, gold in the women's doubles SL3-SU5 with Sadiyah Khalimatus and in the mixed doubles SL3-SU5 with Hary Susanto.

And Ratri Oktila was on for a triple crown when she made the women's singles SL4 final too, but a third gold medal was just out of reach as China's CHENG Hefang claimed the final by two sets to one.

Regardless of her only loss at the Paralympic Games, three medals in the three categories she entered is a spectacular result and Ratri Oktila goes home a national hero.

“This is the Paralympics and my first time competing at the Paralympics," she told in Tokyo, "I always say that I want to show my best in Indonesia colours, to give my all for Indonesians.”

"I actually feel motivated by Indonesians to be at the Games," she said. "I feel happy and proud to represent Indonesia in the first Para badminton [competition]."

Leani Ratri Oktila accident

20 years old when the motorcycle accident happened, her left leg ended up seven centimetres shorter than the other and stopped playing the game she loves.

An aspiring badminton player before that day, Ratri Oktila thought her career was over, but encouraged by her family and inspired by watching other Paralympians she picked up the racket again.

“There were people struggling harder, so I thought I can play again and fight harder," she told in a 2018 interview.

Now the 30-year-old is top of the world, adding two priceless Paralympic gold medals and a silver to an impressive honour roll that includes three world champ titles and multiple medals at the ASEAN and Asian Para Games.

It's all the more impressive when you consider she played 12 matches in five days, and three finals in two days.

Her maiden gold came in the women's doubles on Saturday 4 September but there was no time to celebrate as she had two more finals to play on Sunday.

To be able to win gold and silver in those two finals speaks to her talent, fitness, and determination: The most dominant Para shuttler in the world right now delivered on the biggest stage there is.

It's been an incredible journey ever since she started playing at the age of seven, stopping to recover from the accident in 2011 then joining the Para circuit in 2014.

Leani Ratri Oktila: humble shuttle star

With this historic feat in Tokyo, Leani has become a little bit of a celebrity back in Indonesia and even received a personal congratulations from the President.

But the success hasn't gone to her head. Ratri Oktila was born in Bangkinang, Riau, on the island of Sumatra where poverty rates are high and opportunities scarce.

Speaking after her opening win over hosts Japan on Friday 3 September she said: “I really want to get the gold, but I will try to not be too ambitious about it. I feel [the first win at Tokyo] was just like any other game that I ever played.

"I will follow one game to another game and go for it."

Serve by serve, point by point, match by match, from medal to medal, this Indonesian shuttle superstar achieved something truly special in Tokyo and there's still so much more to come.

Paris 2024 is less than three years away.