Indonesia No. 1 Leani Ratri Oktila sets sights on World Championship title

Three has gradually become a lucky number for Leani Ratri Oktila. Since 2018, she has returned from every tournament with three medals all of them gold, making it a total of 11. The Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games and last month’s Dubai-Fazza International were an exception, where the local star had to settle for the silver in the women’s singles SL4.

On both the occasions, Oktila lost the gold medal to her Chinese nemesis Cheng Hefang, the same opponent who had stopped her from winning the World Championship gold in 2017. The Indonesia no. 1 Para Badminton player, who celebrated her 28th birthday of May 6, is thus focused to improve the mental aspect of her game to attain one of her goals–clinching the gold at the World Championships, that will be played in Basel, Switzerland from August 21-25, 2019.

With the Tokyo qualification race already starting this January, Oktila said every tournament will be important from here on as all the players will be trying their best for qualifying points. The 28-year-old believes that the top 10 players have the same level of game and it’s just each player’s mental condition that will make a difference in big matches.

“Cheng Hefang will be my main competitor in the road to the Tokyo 2020 and ahead,” she told Asian Paralympic Committee (APC) ahead of the Canada Para-Badminton International 2019 that got underway on Tuesday.  

Last month at the Dubai meet, the Indonesian No. 1 women’s singles player lost to Hefang in straight games 15-21, 15-21, admitting that her opponent had “better strokes and agility”. Besides, the Indonesian –seeded no. 1 in the doubles events as well—lived up to their billing and took the doubles SL4 gold with Hary Susanto (mixed doubles) and Khalimatus Sadiyah Sukohandoko (women’s doubles).

Asked if she had started any meditation sessions, Oktila said: “No, I am not trying meditation. But I am trying to control my nerves, to be calm during competitions.”

‘Will try to repeat 2018’

Coming out of an amazing 2018, when she also had won the BWF Para Badminton Player of the Year, Oktila hopes to continue the same form this year too.

 “This year is important and it’s a strong competition here as all the top players are in Dubai. It is a good experience before the World Championships, which is my main target for 2019,” added the attacking player, who won 14 gold medals last year.

 Much like other shuttlers, Oktila is looking to win her first Paralympic gold at Tokyo 2020 Games. However, she feels she also needs to improve her speed to maintain her form in the future.  “I am also working on my agility and speed for better results. I try to follow the on-disabled players like Tai Tzu Ying who are so fast on court. I want to emulate her court craft and deceptive strokes. I have to be confident with my strokes,” she added.

At the Canada meet, Oktila has been given the top billing in SL4 women’s singles, SL3-SU5 women’s doubles and mixed doubles events. And with no China participation at the event, she is expected to take home all the three titles. In the singles, the Indonesian should clash against Norway’s Helle Sofie Sagoy for the title.

The mixed doubles competition looks strong with France’s second seeds Lucas Mazur and Faustine Noel and fellow Indonesians Fredy Setiawan and Sadiyah to pose strong challenge to Oktila and Susanto in the title race.

 “I hope to win all the three events here. Wish me luck,” she signed off with hopes to continuing her run of three-for-three.

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