At the age of 21, Sony Dwi Kuncoro was already an Olympic bronze medalist, three-time Asian champion and two-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist in badminton.
In 2013, he was in the comfortable position of World No. 4 but, astoundingly, he found himself as low as 154th less than two years later.
It was a stunning plummet for Kuncoro, and luck seemed to be against him. A series of persistent injuries, which brought about a string of subpar displays, resulted in him being removed from the Indonesia national team training camp.
With his career seemingly destined for a continuous downward spiral, he could have been forgiven for giving up hope and thinking his glory days were over.
Instead, with the support of his wife, who also doubles up as his coach, the Surabaya native embarked on the arduous journey back up the rankings.
In April this year, the return of Kuncoro was complete when he entered the OUE Singapore Open as a qualifier and went all the way to be crowned champion, claiming a series of huge scalps along the way.
After toiling his way past his first three opponents, no one gave him a chance in the semifinals against the might of China’s Lin Dan, a two-time Olympic and five-time world champion.
But in a stunning performance reminiscent of his younger days, Kuncoro saw off Lin before going on the defeat South Korean Son Wan-ho in the final to claim his first Badminton World Federation Super Series crown since he won the same event six years earlier.
His triumph came as a reminder that, even in this age when up-and-coming athletes are emerging onto the scene — younger, fitter and faster than their predecessors — there is still a place for experience, wisdom and cunning.
“The victory is proof that I’ve still got it,” said Kuncoro following the victory, according to The Jakarta Post. “It’s a reward for my hard work. After I resigned from the national team, joining a Super Series was hard enough for me because my world ranking is low, let alone winning it.
“It is amazing to win this title, coming from the qualifying round.”
Since that victory in April, Kuncoro has yet to emerge triumphant again, although he did reach the last eight of another Super Series and also made the final of the SCG Thailand Open in October.
He has since climbed back up to 28th in the whole although, at 32, the Indonesian would be the first to admit that his storied career is slowly but surely reaching its conclusion.
Nonetheless, given the resilience he has shown to rise again and emerge from the shadows, it should not come as a surprise if Kuncoro manages to pull off one final hurrah before eventually calling it a day.
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