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09/04/2001: Sigit and Candra forget drug ban after winning Japan Open

Candra Wijaya and Sigit Bidiarto are the happiest badminton players after their easy win in the final of the 20th Japan Open yesterday in Tokyo. First of all, because they played just about perfectly to beat Lars Paaske and Martin Lundgaard Hansen of Denmark. Secondly and most of all, because this victory is a symbolic one, for this pair which had to go separate ways at some point of their career.

In 1997, Candra Wijaya and Sigit Budiarto were world champions and probably the best pair of the moment. Yet history was tough on the brilliant team mates, when Sigit Budiarto was banned from International competition for using drugs. One could have thought that it was the last of the magic pair, as Candra Wijaya went on to play with a different partner.

« I never thought Sigit had anything to do with this, and I still believe it » said Wijaya. « At first, I didn’t want to play with anybody else than Sigit, but I had to face the fact that I could not just stop my career while he was on ban » said Wijaya. So he did go on to play with Tony Gunawan with such a success that most people believed that the Budiarto/Wijaya team was never to reunite. After Gunawan and Wijaya won the 2000 Japan Open and most of all the best ever competition - the olympics in Sydney - it was time for the two friends to get back together, no matter what.

And Sigit had put his mind into work and dedication to come back to his best level. « It was hard for me to see how low I was in the world ranking, and that Candra was winning the Olympic Gold medal, so I worked hard to be ready when I could compete again» said Sigit.

Few weeks after Sydney, with a little bit of training together, Budiarto and Wijaya were back on tracks, winning the 3 stars 2000 Dutch Open. A first step towards some bigger wins. Then came the All England, where they were beaten in the final by Tony Gunawan, now teaming with Halim Heryanto.

But the best way to prepare their only target - the world championships in Seville - was to do well in the Japan Open, the very last Open before Seville. And they couldn’t dream of a better preparation, as they beat one pair after the other. A Japanese pair, first, then, Reony Mainaky with Japanese partner Masuda. Neither Ya/Chau of Honk Kong and the strong Malaysian pair Chew and Chan were able to take one game from them.

In the final, they were to play Martin Lundgaard and Lars Paaske, author of a brilliant performance in the semi-final against Gunawan and Heryanto. Yet the Danes weren’t able to do half as well against Budiarto and Wijaya. "They tried to put pressure on the first three strokes to take the attack, but it just didn’t work," said newly appointed coach Hoyer Larsen. Indeed, the Indonesians didn’t let the Danes get into the game. Taking the attack very early, putting pressure on every point, Budiarto and Wijaya were the bosses on court.

As a matter of fact, there wasn’t much of a challenge, and the final’s quality was far from expected. Even if the Indonesians did give some kind of enjoyment to the public when returning smashes behind their backs or jumping high in the air to finish up points, most of the scoring was made on the Danes errors.

Rather boring for a category which is usually the best to watch at this level. There was a little bit of suspense at the end, when leading 15/6 - 14/8, the Indonesians took some time to close up the match. Six match points were saved by the Danes, who then showed a glimpse of their talent, helped with six shuttles touching the net band before falling on the right side.

But luck is more than what the Danes needed to win this match, and Budiarto took it away on a last attack on Lundgaard who could only hit the net. "This victory is very important for us as it signs our real come back at high level," said Wijaya

Wijaya/Budiarto (INA) bt Paaske/Lundgaard (DEN) : 15/7 - 15/11

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