Four Weeks in Jakarta's Badminton Haven: A Kiwi's Reflection

For two Kiwi athletes, a month of living and training in one of Asia's badminton powerhouses was a rewarding experience - one they're keen to relive.

Justine Villegas and Adam Jeffrey are New Zealand badminton representatives. Through the BWF Player Development Program and Badminton Oceania, they had the opportunity to train at the Candra Wijaya International Badminton Centre in Jakarta, Indonesia in late 2023.

In this piece, Justine talks through the calibre of training they received, battling the heat in training and the unexpected amount of laundry they went through.

In New Zealand, badminton is more commonly known as something you play in PE rather than an international competitive sport.

Not so in Indonesia. Travelling 10 hours to Indonesia, where the country lives and breathes badminton, the experience was more than we could ask for. 

Adam Jeffrey (left) and Justine Villegas travelled to Jakarta, Indonesia in late 2023 for an intense badminton training camp. Image: Supplied

Indonesia is a powerhouse in badminton. They have earned gold medals across all categories and events of the sport - Super Series, World Championships, and the Olympics. Indonesian players are famous for their speed, racket skills, and consistency on the court - as well as having the most personality.

The Candra Wijaya International Badminton Centre is owned and run by Candra Wijaya himself. He is a well-decorated player and just so happens to be an Olympic Gold Medalist for Men’s Doubles in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Once he figured out that our National Coach in New Zealand is Rikke Olsen, he did say, “Oh! Rikke Olsen? I remember her. We’re the same level. I remember she beat me in mixed doubles at World Juniors.” So you can say we’re in good hands here in New Zealand.

Both Adam and I were very fortunate to have been coached by Candra multiple times throughout our trip. Being coached by him gave us a glimpse of what it takes to be world number one, and I must say, it’s not an easy road.

Adam Jeffrey (right) and Justine Villegas (left) with Candra Wijaya (centre). Image: Supplied

With the Indonesian heat spoiling us at 36 degrees daily, his sessions were extremely mentally and physically challenging, but he made still made them fun. His sense of humour made it easier and he would share insights on what he used to do when he was still competing.

One of the many things that he said was “I had no secret to my success to be world number one. Everyone knew I was addicted to getting fit and I wanted to win. I put in the hard work.”

When we weren’t training with Candra, we played with athletes from other Indonesian cities selected to train at his centre. They all had a shared goal of making it into the Indonesian National Squad and being surrounded by them really added a different element to the training sessions.

They were consistent in their shots and lived up to our expectations of having amazing racket skills. In contrast to our two-hour sessions back home, Indonesia had three-and-a-half-hour intense sessions daily. In saying that! They were very fun to be around as they loved to put in their trick shots during training and match sessions – like I said, personality! This helped us endure training sessions in the intensity and heat we weren’t used to.

The other athletes in Jakarta helped make the challenging training sessions easier. Image: Supplied

Training in an Indonesian badminton academy

Training squads were divided into three: Doubles Squad, Singles Squad, and B Squad. Each squad trained at separate times throughout the week but had the same workload. Apart from Wednesdays and Thursdays, there were two training sessions each day. One for on-court training and the other for strength and conditioning. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, we would have a half day which consisted of one training session. Which I must say was something we very much looked forward to!

Wednesdays were for matches - oftentimes players from other clubs or ex-players would come and join the matches, adding a different dynamic to the sessions. Saturdays are for outdoor runnings such as 8 x 800m which they called the ‘short program.’ I don’t know about you, but that program did not sound or feel short at all!

The training schedule was packed with sessions: everything from matches to runs and strength conditioning. Image: Supplied

Last but not least, rest day! Rest day was on Sunday and was spent however you wanted. Many people went to their respective places of worship, whether it be for Christians, Muslims, or Buddhists. It was great to see diversity in culture within an already rich culture.

We were fortunate to have a cook at the centre who provided a variety of Indonesian cuisines. I did make a special request from the beginning, stating that I can’t handle any spicy food! They were very accommodating and always made something on the side if the main dish was spicy. This entertained the locals a lot as I couldn’t even handle the plain mi-goreng chili packet. The Indonesians also loved their soup! Which is a plus for me because I love soup! But it was definitely an experience having soup while it was 30 degrees. I had to have two serviettes next to me, and one was for wiping off my sweat.

Sitting down with some well-deserved food. Image: Supplied

The most underrated thing that people don’t think about with sport is laundry. We were very fortunate that our laundry would get picked up every day and would be delivered back to us within 1-2 days - depending on how quickly the weather can dry our clothes. With the 30-degree heat, you can’t even imagine how many shirts we would go through in one training session. Each session, I would go through at least 4 shirts and sometimes even 2 pairs of shorts! Adam had to change his socks mid-session because it was just that hot. So we were extremely grateful that our clothes were being washed daily; otherwise, we would have had to pack 2 more luggages of clothes to keep up with the training sessions!

- Asia Media Centre