From the depths of despair in 2012, through injury, thoughts of retirement and personal tragedy, to the loftiest high in 2021, it has been a momentous Olympic journey for Greysia Polii.
Polii and partner Meiliana Jauhari were disqualified at London 2012 along with a Chinese and two Korean pairs for not giving their best on court.
Nine years after London 2012, Polii and Apriyani Rahayu gutsed their way into the women’s doubles final at Tokyo 2020, becoming the first Indonesian women’s doubles pair in an Olympic final. The disqualification in London 2012, the retirement of her Rio 2016 partner Nitya Krishinda Maheswari, a shoulder surgery and the loss of her brother late last year were the curveballs that life threw her way.
That disqualification at London 2012, Polii recalled, set her on the path to never giving up on her dreams.
“So many people, not just me, have been through adversity and unforgettable moments as well. I guess the London Olympics taught me to never give up on your dreams. And I know I’m not just saying it, I want to mean it every day of my life. I just really go day by day, it’s just bonus from God that I could be here and in the final of Olympics in 2021.”
The post-Rio 2016 period threw up another problem, for her then-partner Nitya Krishinda Maheswari retired after serious injury. Polii contemplated quitting the sport, but her coach Eng Hian and family convinced her to keep playing. Then, virtually out of the blue, came along a young and hard-hitting partner who could provide her the force from the back, allowing her to create the play.
“It’s been a long journey for me. It’s how you want to wait and persevere. She got up from I don’t know where, suddenly in 2017 when I was about to retire after Rio 2016.
“In 2017 I was in the national team and about to quit when my partner (Maheswari) got injured and had surgery, but my coach said wait a little bit and help young players to rise up, and she came. And then we won Korea Open and Thailand Open and that’s how fast we came. I was like, oh my god, I need to run for four more years!
“I’m not young anymore. But finally she (Apriyani) got up, I waited for her for so long.
“It’s just incredible. I guess the situation and the condition on court was really with us. Today’s match we just wanted to give our best. We’ve been losing and winning against this pair, so we didn’t want to think about that, we just wanted to prepare our best. What else can I say?”
Her partner, she of the boundless reserves of energy and provider of the attacking thrust for the combination, was a willing ally.
“I kept telling Greysia, don’t quit, just play with me. And I was convinced by her motivation, her hard work every day, her grit, and her desire to be a champion.”
Then, of course, there was the loss of Polii’s brother earlier this year, at the mention of whom Polii broke down. Rahayu held her tight.
“I know it’s been months, but I’m still… in 2019 he really knew that I had given my all to badminton. He was satisfied with my achievement, but he said 2020 was the last one. He said both of you are great on court. I want as a brother, as a father, to give you spirit. He taught me psychology. Until March of 2020. The Olympics didn’t happen last year, and I thought he’d wait for me until now, but he just wanted to wait for my wedding. And then he was gone.
“You know, brother gave me… I was fatherless since I was two, and he was like my father. I know he’s satisfied with my achievements, but I know that he wants to wait for my wedding, as a younger sister. And then he was gone. I thought I’ll give my best and I know he’s enjoying it from above.”