Game Changer: Kevin Sanjaya
By The Time Place Magazine
There’s more to the man behind the many medals and accolades. The Time Place magazine gets to know Kevin Sanjaya, up close and personal.
Competition is in Kevin Sanjaya’s blood. Formerly ranked world number 1 in the men’s doubles category, together with his current partner, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon, a classification given by the Badminton World Federation, and awarded the BWF Best Male Players of the Year for two consecutive years, it can be said that Kevin is at the height of success. With great sportsmanship and determination, he is now reaping the fruits of his labours on and off the court.
From a young age, Kevin has fostered an interest in badminton. When he was barely three years old, he would watch attentively as his father played the sport in the court behind their house. Upon noticing this, his father then sought out a coach to help his son develop his talent. Later on, at the age of 11, Kevin joined the Sari Agung club in his native Banyuwangi, East Java, after which he won the Graha Bhakti Cup tournament. Following this achievement, his parents encouraged the young athlete to join a bigger club.
With a desire to attain a scholarship, he took part in the general auditions held by PB Djarum, but initially failed. However, he did not let his disappointment stop him from achieving his dream. Since he wasn’t able to pass the auditions due to his small physique, he focused on developing more muscle and started to train every day. His determination and grit served him well and bore fruit. In 2007, he finally managed to get into PB Djarum, the same club he belongs to until the present day.
From his humble beginnings, Kevin has never stopped looking forward and wanting to do more. He steadily honed his skills and is now an accomplished athlete. Asked about what he loves about badminton, the 27-year-old says, “Badminton is a very exciting, competitive game, and it does not depend on someone’s physicality, but requires great skill and strategy.” This perhaps best describes Kevin and his partner, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon, on the court, because despite their below average height, the two sportsmen have a fast and agile playing style. Nicknamed “the Minions”, Kevin and Marcus are a delight to watch and have certainly taken the men’s doubles game to an entirely new level.
Through the years, Kevin’s partnership with Marcus has led to award-winning feats. They were consistent winners or runners-up at the BWF Superseries from 2016-2017 and the BWF World Tour in the years 2018-2021. In March of 2017, “the Minions” earned a number one men’s doubles world ranking. A true achievement, this feat launched the young men into the world stage. They have also attained awards in the men’s doubles category in other sporting events such as a silver medal in the 2015 Southeast Asian games, a gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games, as well as a silver medal in the 2019 Asian Championships. By 2019, Kevin and Gideon had already managed to best eight World Tour titles. Through a series of successes, and sometimes failures, the duo continued their stride and never let unfair umpires or bad games get the best of them. Playing for the Indonesia men’s team, Kevin along with the team managed to win the Asia Team Championships held in Manila in 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic somewhat slowed down the streak of Kevin and Gideon. This much can be said when they they hit the ground running in 2021 by making a comeback at the All England Open in March 2021, only to be forced to withdraw from the competition, along with the Indonesia team, when they all needed to self-isolate for 10 days because they were exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19 on their inbound flight. In July 2021, the badminton champs competed and lost to Malaysia at the badminton quarter-finals of the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Regardless of the challenges and the detriments they faced, Kevin and Gideon remained keen on playing and did their best at the 2021 Sudirman Cup in Vantaa, Finland. Three consecutive wins allowed the athletes to end the year with a bang. Kevin, along with the Indonesia team, managed to win the 2020 Thomas Cup, whereas he and Gideon also finished the year strong by winning the Hylo Open, finishing as a runner-up in the Indonesia Masters and triumphantly dominating in the Indonesia Open.
This list is just a brief summary of Kevin’s achievements in the world of badminton. Despite all the hardships, he conveys that it always makes him truly happy to represent his country, “My proudest moments are when I am able to attain the highest podium and make Indonesia proud.” He further states that he would do everything he can to always bring pride and honour to Indonesia.
However, competing for the top prize takes a lot of preparation and puts a huge burden on one’s shoulders. Kevin takes this all in stride and makes the most of everything, “The pressure is always there but one must be able to convert this pressure into motivation to keep going.” Never one to focus on the challenges, he prepares himself for competitions by being keeping himself healthy physically and mentally, “I try to keep myself in the best shape possible, starting from regulating my sleeping, watching what I eat, taking vitamins and exercising.”
By conditioning himself the best way he can, Kevin aspires to further elevate the sport of badminton in Indonesia, “By performing as well as I can, I hope to support and uplift the badminton industry in Indonesia.” Taking inspiration from his idol, Lin Dan, a Chinese former professional badminton player, Kevin is determined to do and be better, not only in his chosen field of badminton, but also in his other interests and future pursuits.
Someone who loves to get on a jetski and play e-sports during his downtime, the talented athlete has since delved into the world of business. He, along with several partners, put up Vinion, a beverage company that serves bubble drinks. A bubble drink lover himself, Kevin aspires to be a successful businessman in the long run. “After I retire from badminton, I would like to pursue a career as a businessman. Right now I don’t have any specific business in mind yet, but hopefully I’ll also find success in the field.”
Down-to-earth and affable, Kevin’s rise as a badminton player and a world-class sportsman has not gone to his head. He remains grounded and always tries his best to remember where he came from and who he is. The recently betrothed gentleman has a simple yet modern and preppy style, something that reflects his uncomplicated and quiet nature. A lover of rare and unique timepieces, Kevin is also a fan of sporty watches.
Wearing a Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II upon his arrival to the shoot, the consummate athlete opts for versatile models that complete his overall look, “I like watches with simple yet strong lines, like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. It’s a watch that’s understated yet truly elegant, one that you can wear on the court, off the court, and even to formal occasions.”
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