Getting chummy with Pally Ronald Susilo

After joining the Singapore Badminton Association in July 1998 as a full time athlete, he represented Singapore in 2 Olympic Games where he famously defeated the #1 seed, Lin Dan of China in the 2004 Athens Games. Ronald Susilo requires no introduction to Singapore and the badminton community.

How did you come about discovering your interest in badminton? 

Initially, it was just playing with my sister in the backyard of our home. Then, I just found the game fun and interesting. After joining a local club in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1987, I went on to train more seriously and participated in a series of  local competitions where I enjoyed some success.

Tell us a bit about your journey so far?

My journey was like a roller coaster ride, filled with ups and downs and bitter-sweet memories. Looking back, it took much hard work and a few sacrifices to get to where I am today. That includes putting my studies on hold after the ‘O’ levels and dropping the pursuit of other interests. Friends and social activities also took a backseat. Along the way, I was plagued with a couple of serious injuries which are an athlete’s worst nightmare. But in hindsight, all these were just part and parcel of a professional sportsman's journey. Hence, I have no regrets.

After my retirement, I resumed my studies for one and half years. In 2010, I decided to set up my badminton academy as I hope to promote the sport I love and hopefully nurture a future badminton champion.

Any happy moments?

Winning a tournament is something that I cherish a lot as it made all the sacrifices worthwhile. However, starting a family and having children is also as meaningful and joyous to me.

Tell us one recent achievement.

As a coach, I am extremely proud of my students who retained the National Schools 'A’ division title (Boys and Girls) for the second year running.

Any painful moments? What irked you?

Being plagued with injuries during my badminton career. Because when it happens, it means I have to lay off from the sport and start all over again (in getting back court fitness and earning competition points) when my peers are actively accumulating important points in the World Ranking table.

What did you learn out of it?

Injuries are part and parcel of the sport and it’s almost impossible to avoid. I will just have to face it with tenacity. All we can do is to listen carefully to our body and react accordingly. Also having a good nutrition meal plan and having enough rest would be useful.

Though his daily routine now is to chauffeur his wife and children, his work continues to revolve around badminton. On weekdays, he splits his time between school teams and academy students. On weekends, half a day is spent on academy coaching and the other half is family time. Ronald also shares his Badminton Masterclass experience on Pally for individuals who are passionate about developing their skills to the highest level.

What are the biggest misconceptions about being a professional sportsman? 

Many people only want to see results but what they don’t know is the process and struggles. To become a champion is not easy, and when we fail, some may just attribute it to weakness / lack of preparation. Sometimes, that hurts but I just try to move on.

Were there any interesting stuff which happened while coaching?

I wouldn’t classify it as "interesting" but sometimes I notice that a person with less raw talent is more determined and hardworking. That grit and will is what makes the difference between success and failure.

How do you determine the geniuses while coaching them? 

I can see it by observing their strokes and movement. A person with innate talent will have a natural style and they improve extremely fast with the correct guidance.

What is the ultimate goal for being a good badminton player / coach?

The ultimate goal for a badminton player is definitely to be a champion whereas as a coach is to nurture and guide his students to be a champion with good character.

At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Ronald defeated Lin Dan from China who was ranked #1 then, en route to reaching the quarter-finals. The highlight of his career was being crowned the Men's Singles Champion of the 2004 Japan Open and reaching a career-high world ranking of #6. He was subsequently named Sportsman of the Year by the Singapore National Olympic Council in 2005. All this being possible with Ronald’s mantra ‘Don’t stop when you are tired, stop when you are done.’ Experience it now!

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