Legendary shuttler Taufik Hidayat bids farewell to fans

Jakarta, June 16 (IANS) Legendary Indonesian shuttler Taufik Hidayat bade a tearful goodbye to his loyal fans and his country’s badminton association (PBSI) here Sunday at the end of a 17-year-long spectacular professional career.

“After 25 years of playing badminton, in which 17 years (were) as a professional player in national and international tournaments, this time is probably the best time for me to retire,” a teary-eyed Taufik said in front of hundreds of spectators at the Istora Senayan Stadium before the Indonesian Open Super Series Premier finals, reports Xinhua.

“This is an emotional moment for me. I want to thank the sport’s stakeholders who have been backing me all this time.”

Taufik handed over a badminton racquet to a young Indonesian player, symbolising regeneration and expectation that his good example can be followed by young players at home.

“On behalf of PBSI and people of Indonesia, I thank you for your dedication and contribution. There is no such former champion. Once a champion always a champion,” PBSI chairman Gita Wirjawan said.

Taufik was sent into retirement after being defeated by India’s unseeded B. Sai Praneeth in the first round of the tourney earlier this week. Taufik was ranked 35 in the world at the time of his retirement.

The 31-year-old won many international championships during his 17-year career. Taufik won two men’s singles gold medals in Asian Games in 2002 Busan, South Korea and 2006 Doha, Qatar. The highlight of his career was winning the gold in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

After winning in Athens, he also went on to become World Champion in 2005 in Anaheim, United States. In the Asian Championships, Taufik won gold in 2000, 2003 and 2004.

The former World No.1 won the Indoensia Open six times between 1999 and 2006. He also helped Indonesia win gold in 1999 Asian Team Cup and Thomas Cup in Kuala Lumpur 2000 and Guangzhou 2002.

Throughout his brilliant career, Taufik has been an arch-rival to Malaysian World No.1 Lee Chong Wei and two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan of China.

“We were good friends. I hope that Taufik can do the best for badminton and for his country,” said Lee Chong Wei, who went on to win the title Sunday.

Taufik now plans to focus on his badminton academy called the Taufik Hidayat Arena situated in Ciracas, East Jakarta. The futuristic-designed building is built on 6,600 square metres of land area, providing complete training sessions including accommodation for talented shuttlers from around the world. It has eight international-standard-sized badminton courts.

Many players from China, Singapore, Japan, Canada and Mexico have undergone intensive training sessions in the academy under the supervision of Taufik and his team.

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