Oktila’s Sights Now On World Championships

Leani Ratri Oktila is used to returning from every Para badminton event with three gold medals. The Indonesian added a triple crown at the Canada Para-Badminton International 2019 on Sunday to her enviable collection of titles.

Oktila won the women’s singles Standing Lower (SL 4), the women’s doubles (SL 3 – SU 5) with Khalimatus Sadiyah, and the mixed doubles (SL 3 – SU 5) with Hary Susanto. Her feat is in keeping with a pattern she has set since early 2018.

Leani Ratri Oktila is inspired by Tai Tzu Ying.

The Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games and last month’s Dubai-Fazza Para-Badminton International were the exception, as Oktila had to settle for silver in the women’s singles SL 4.

On both occasions, Oktila lost the gold to her Chinese nemesis Cheng Hefang, the same opponent who had stopped her from winning the Para Badminton World Championships gold in 2017. The Indonesian is thus focused on improving the mental aspect of her game to attain one of her goals – clinching the gold at the Para Badminton World Championships that will be played in Basel, Switzerland, from 21 to 25 August 2019.

In Canada, Oktila faced little trouble in the singles, winning the final over Japan’s Haruka Fujino 21-12 21-12. In the mixed doubles however, she and Hary Susanto were taken to three games by France’s Lucas Mazur/Faustine Noel.

With the Tokyo qualification race having started this January, Oktila said every tournament will be important from here on as all the players will be trying their best for qualifying points. The 28-year-old, who celebrated her birthday recently, believes that the top 10 players have the same level of game and it’s just each player’s mental condition that will make a difference in big matches.

Oktila and Jack Shephard won the Para Badminton Player of the Year award last year in the female and male category respectively.

“Cheng Hefang will be my main competitor in the Road to Tokyo 2020 and ahead,” she told Asian Paralympic Committee.

Last month at the Dubai meet, the Indonesian lost to Cheng in straight games and acknowledged that her opponent had “better strokes and agility”.

“I’m trying to control my nerves, to be calm during competitions,” said Oktila.

‘Will try to repeat 2018’

Coming out of an amazing 2018, when she won the BWF Female Para Badminton Player of the Year, Oktila hopes to continue the same form this year too.

“This year is important and there’s strong competition. My main target is the World Championships,” added the attacking player, who won 14 gold medals last year.

Like other shuttlers, Oktila is looking to win her first Paralympic gold at Tokyo 2020 Games. However, she feels she also needs to improve her speed to maintain her form in the future.  “I’m working on my agility and speed for better results. I try to follow the able-bodied players like Tai Tzu Ying who are so fast on court. I want to emulate her court craft and deceptive strokes. I have to be confident with my strokes,” she added.