For this Olympian, a US medal means 'the world'

Tony Gunawan might be making his Olympic debut as an American, but this veteran badminton ace already has left his mark on the sport's biggest stage.

Gunawan, who began playing badminton at a very young age in his native Indonesia, took the gold medal for his home country in men's doubles at the 2000 Games in Sydney.


Since then he has served as a guiding figure for U.S. badminton, coaching a slew of younger players who have helped develop the sport into a highly competitive event for Team USA.

Gunawan made history in 2005 by claiming the United States' first-ever medal in badminton at the World Championships in Anaheim, Calif., alongside doubles partner Howard Bach. The achievement was highlighted by the pair being recognized as the U.S. Olympic Committee Team of the Year in 2005.

Afterwards, Gunawan bowed out of competitive badminton, intent on focusing his energy on developing the next crop of stars for Team USA. But his old partner Bach convinced him to come out of retirement in 2009 and the two men picked up where they left off, going on to claim gold at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. The victory set the stage for Gunawan's return to the Olympics, this time as a member of Team USA after earning his U.S. citizenship on September 6, 2011.


"Winning a medal for the USA means the world to me," Gunawan told the BBC recently. He said he will always keep Indonesia, where he first developed his passion for the country’s popular sport, in his heart, but that he is "honored" to represent the United States.

"It's kind of cool to be on the same team as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Michael Phelps," he said.

The former Olympic champion said he will retire from international competition following the London Games, setting his sights back on nurturing the future of badminton by developing young players at his academy in southern California. Gunawan, who said he is "living the American dream" raising his family and coaching in the U.S., also plans to teach the game to his two young sons, aged two and four.

Before he hangs up his racquet for what he says is the final time, Gunawan will make one last push for a trip to the medals podium with teammate Bach when badminton play kicks off on July 28.