Gideon: A Relentless Star Bids Goodbye

Has there been a more underappreciated doubles great than Marcus Fernaldi Gideon?

Thanks largely to the spectacular skills of his partner Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, Gideon’s own contribution to the pair’s success was relatively in the shade. It is on his retirement, which was announced earlier this month, that fans can look back in wonder at the full extent of his special gifts.

Gideon and Sukamuljo made a great pair.

Known as the Minions for their energy and their below-average height among elite badminton players, Gideon and Sukamuljo lorded over the circuit during their prime years from 2016 to 2019. Sukamuljo’s lightning-quick reflexes and poaching at the net, and Gideon’s workhorse energy around the court, somehow seemed to make the combination greater than the sum of its parts. For a player primarily at the back, Gideon’s hitting lacked the firepower of famed big-hitters like Fu Haifeng or Tan Boon Heong, but he compensated with relentlessness and consistency. In quickness and defence, the Minions were almost without peer.

While his name will be forever hyphenated along with Sukamuljo’s, Gideon can point out his Superseries win with a different partner – Markis Kido – with whom he won the French Open in 2013.

It will perhaps remain one of badminton’s mysteries why a pair that won major tournaments multiple times failed to secure a medal at the World Championships and the Olympics. But that shouldn’t take away the magnitude of the Minions’ accomplishments – the 10 Superseries and 19 World Tour titles, the Asian Games gold and the Thomas Cup, while remaining world No.1 for 226 weeks.

It is arguable if Gideon received proportional credit for the extraordinary success of the Minions. Sukamuljo’s skills were the more attention-grabbing, but the pair couldn’t have done without Gideon’s heavy labour, especially in slow conditions where points were hard to come by. Gideon was always game for the relentless drudge work, the long spells of hard hitting when the situation demanded it, and which gave the opportunities for his partner to seize.

Asked during this year’s India Open why contemporary men’s doubles has become so evenly-contested among the top 15 pairs or so, Anders Skaarup Rasmussen offered an interesting take. It was, he said, partly due to the absence of the Minions who had set a distance between themselves and the others. Their absence had opened up men’s doubles.

“We don’t have Kevin and Marcus who won eight or nine tournaments in a row,” Rasmussen said.

Gideon’s retirement marks the end of the career of the Minions, and a special chapter in badminton.

Career Highlights

Asian Games gold (2018)
Thomas Cup – Champions (2020)
30 Superseries/World Tour titles, including:
• All England – 2017, 2018
• Japan Open – 2017, 2018, 2019
• Denmark Open – 2018, 2019
• China Open & China Masters (Fuzhou) – 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
• Indonesia Open – 2018, 2019, 2021
• India Open – 2016, 2017, 2018

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