Indonesian great Hendra Setiawan does not do normal – the 36-year-old is still fighting for an Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020, 13 years on from his first conquest.
When Setiawan combined to great effect with the late Markis Kido to be victorious at Beijing 2008 despite the pressure of taking on the formidable Chinese pairing of Cai Yun/Fu Haifeng in their own backyard, few would have predicted the then 23-year-old competing at another Olympics more than a decade later, let alone starting as the men’s doubles second seeds alongside Mohammad Ahsan.
But such is Setiawan’s phenomenal longevity – the Java native is already the oldest badminton world champion – that he is on the verge of something that has never been achieved in the sport, come 31 July at the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza.
Though the four-time world champion would not be alone from the Beijing vintage to reappear in Japan – Raul Must, Pablo Abian, Kevin Cordon and Tien Minh Nguyen also took part at the Summer Games in China – Setiawan is the only medallist to return after all these years.
Another podium finish will reward him badminton immortality, for it is a feat unlikely to be matched. The COVID-19 global pandemic gave birth to an odd five-year gap between the last Olympics and this and that means, for a shuttler to surpass Setiawan’s very much possible record of medalling 13 years apart, he or she may need to qualify for five editions.
And if Setiawan does get his hands on the ultimate accolade in Tokyo, it would also go down as a fitting personal tribute to former comrade Kido, whose untimely demise last month left Indonesian badminton reeling, and to current partner Ahsan, for whom an Olympic medal is the only prize conspicuously missing from his glittering collection.