Hidayat fulfills potential with badminton gold

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia wins gold medal in the men's badminton competition beating seventh-seeded Shon Seung-mo of South Korea 15-8 15-7.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:08 IST
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Taufik Hidayat could not stop the tears after winning Indonesia's first gold medal of the Athens Olympics today. The unheralded Hidayat won the men's badminton title beating seventh-seeded Shon Seung-mo of South Korea 15-8 15-7. The unseeded Hidayat, spurred by a noisy Indonesian crowd, overcame a 6-0 deficit in the first game. From 7-7, Hidayat grew in confidence, allowing Shon to score only one more point on his way to a one-game lead. "In the first minutes I was very nervous," Hidayat said. "When I was 6-0 down I thought I had a big, big responsibility to the Indonesian people, I was the only player who has the opportunity to win a gold medal for Indonesia." The nerves settled and Hidayat calmly dominated the second game, earning points from overhead winners and Shon's errors. On match point, he smashed the ball at Shon's feet, then bent over with his face in his hands. He dedicated his win to coach Mulyo Handoyo, who ran onto the court and hugged the sobbing Hidayat. Tears also ran down Hidayat's face during the medal ceremony. "I offer my gold medal to my trainer. My win of the gold medal is the best present for my birthday," said Hidayat, who turned 23 on August 10. Hidayat was spurred on by a large Indonesian crowd who cheered incessantly. Two fans dressed in traditional Balinese masks danced in the aisles waving the country's red-and-white flag. Under the guidance of Handoyo, a 19-year-old Hidayat went to the Sydney Games ranked and seeded No. 1. He was eliminated in the quarterfinals. He fell out with the Indonesian Badminton Federation when they fired Handoyo, who moved to coach in Singapore. Hidayat went, too, and threatened to switch allegiances. His form dipped until Handoyo was invited back in February. The result was instant - Hidayat won the Asian Cup over compatriot Soni Dwi Koncuro, who won bronze today with a 15-11 17-16 win over Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand. Shon - who had a cornea transplant in high school after being hit in the eye with a shuttlecock - was the first South Korean to make the men's final. China won gold and silver in the women's doubles, when top-seeded Zhang Jiewin and Yang Wei overcame a spirited Huang Sui and Gao Ling to win 7-15 15-4 15-8. China could not repeat the medals sweep it had in Sydney and Ra Kyung-min and Lee Kyung-won's superior fitness proved to be the decider as the South Koreans beat China's Zhao Tingting and Wei Yili 10-15 15-9 15-7 in the bronze medal playoff. It's the third Olympic medal for Gao, who won mixed doubles and finished third in the women's doubles with Quin Yiyuan four years ago in Sydney. Yang won silver in the women's doubles in 2000 with Huang Nanyan. (AP)

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