Genius of Vintage Invincibles (Part 1) – 25th Edition World C’Ships

Monday, August 12, 2019
TEXT BY Frankie D'Cruz | BWF Archive

Indonesian phenoms Tjun Tjun and Johan Wahjudi captured the defining spirit of badminton in the 1970s as a gifted doubles pair.

Their performances were swathed with the delight of Tjun Tjun’s springing net kills, astounding net interceptions and sprightly jump smashes complimented by Wahjudi’s thrilling quickness and ferocious attacks.

They were mesmerising to watch, no matter where your allegiances lay.

Like certain legendary badminton players at that time, they achieved greatness without the kind of funds, facilities and visibility available to athletes today.

Reflecting on his playing career upon retirement in 1982, Wahjudi told an interviewer: “We were all amateurs with minimal sponsorship. No money, just clothing.

“We played for the country, not for money, not for ourselves.”

The 25th Edition of the BWF World Championships is a good time as any to reconstruct their fairy tale performances that venerates them as an inspirational and charismatic force.

Their victory at the first World Championships in Malmo, Sweden in 1977 is still talked about today.

The Beginnings

Java, the world’s most populous island (over 145 million), was blessed with two baby boys born five months apart and destined to dominate the badminton world.

Liang Chunsheng was born in Central Java on 4 October 1952, as the youngest of five sons in a Chinese-Indonesian family.

On 10 February 1953, Ang Yu Liang was born in East Java, the fourth of seven children also to Chinese-Indonesian parents.

Wahjudi on the smash.

As the law required those of Chinese ethnicity living in Indonesia to change their Chinese names to Indonesian, Liang Chunsheng was renamed Tjun Tjun and Ang Yu Liang became Johan Wahjudi.

Tjun Tjun got into the game late at age 14 while Wahjudi began at six.

Wahjudi later moved to train at the top badminton club, NT Rajawali, in Surabaya where icon Rudy Hartono (original name Nio Hap Liang) also trained.

Tjun Tjun quickly established himself as a fine singles and doubles player at club level and came into national eye in Jakarta.

There, he was matched with Wahjudi by coach Stanley Gouw.

The late Gouw was at the core of Indonesian badminton’s Golden Age when the “Magnificent Seven” of Hartono, Liem Swie King, Iie Sumirat, Tjun Tjun, Wahjudi, Christian Hadinata, and Ade Chandra were dominant.

Under the astute Gouw, Tjun Tjun and Wahjudi quickly emerged as the top pair in Indonesia by winning the 1972 national championships.

That year, they also won their first international title at the World Invitation tournament in Jakarta defeating All England title holders Hadinata and Chandra, 15-10 15-10.

The win sparked an intense rivalry between the two pairs that would extend well into the World Championships era.

The first grudge match came at the 1973 All England soon after all four featured in Indonesia’s second consecutive Thomas Cup title, smashing Denmark 8-1 in the final in Jakarta.

At the Wembley Arena in London, Tjun Tjun and Wahjudi missed out on their first All England title, losing 15-1 15-7 to Hadinata and Chandra in the final.

Rapid-fire revenge for Tjun Tjun and Wahjudi would come that year at the Danish Open, German Open and Singapore Open.

In Singapore, they took just 20 minutes to overpower Hadinata and Chandra.

The following year would prove to be an even better year for the pair on a delicious romp.

They won five international titles in men’s doubles – the All England, Danish Open, Tehran 1974 Asian Games and two World Invitation tournaments.

Tjun Tjun and Wahjudi continued to run riot in 1975 but faced a dry spell the following year.

The only exception was another Thomas Cup team victory, a 9-0 drubbing of Malaysia in Bangkok.

Their year-long doubles title drought ended in style in 1977 as they would go on to be crowned inaugural world champions. A fitting honour for the then already world-beaters.

**

To honour the medallists of the first World Championships, BWF has organised a reception on the final day of the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2019. Among the attendees are Flemming Delfs, Lene Koppen, Gillian Gilks, Nora Perry, Steen Skovgaard, Derek Talbot, Ray Stevens, Thomas Kihlstrom, Etsuko Toganoo, Emiko Ueno and Joanna Flockhart.

* Read Genius of Vintage Invincibles (Part 2).