Kusuma and Susanti grew up together on the national team, but the former didn't even watch the latter's gold medal match in Barcelona. "I stayed in my room [in the athletes' village]," says Kusuma. "I didn't watch it on TV."
And now, as Paul Harvey might put it, the rest of the story. "I was too nervous to watch Susi," admits Kusuma. "But one of my friends came in and told me she lost the first set." To judge by Kusuma's face, he is developing an ulcer at the memory of the anxious hour that ensued. "Then my friend came and said Susi won the second set," he recalls, sounding relieved. "In the rubber [set], I didn't know what was happening." His face clouds, as if he still doesn't know the outcome. "Finally my friend came to say it was match point, that I should come and watch. I knew it must be in Susi's favor."
As she was presented with the first gold medal in the history of her impossibly vast nation—the world's fourth most populous, comprising 13,600 islands that stretch across 3,200 miles—Susanti wept. "It was something very precious for Indonesia," she says.
Ten minutes after the final note of Indonesia Raya had sounded, Kusuma would open his own gold medal match, against fellow countryman Ardy Wiranata. By then, Indonesia's men were guaranteed gold, silver and bronze. Going into the Games, they had expected China, Malaysia and Denmark to dominate, and they had set their sights only on a bronze. "Anything else was a dream," a Badminton Association of Indonesia council member wrote in Badminton USA magazine. "If God was merciful, we might get more."
In the East Javanese city of Surabaya, Kusuma's father couldn't bear to watch his son's match on TV, so he paced outside his house. But God was merciful. "I wasn't nervous," says Kusuma, who won in straight sets. "I was more nervous watching Susi."
Is it any wonder? The only two gold medalists in the history of their nation, the only individual gold medalists in the history of their sport, Allan Kusuma and Susi Susanti, will marry in a Jakarta hotel in the months after the Olympics. It will be a virtual royal wedding on Java, which National Geographic understatedly calls "one of the world's most crowded places." One hopes there will be valet parking.
And if the happy couple really does look happy, perhaps it means badminton is more than just a job after all. "I am proud, yes," says the groom, reflecting on all that the game has brought him and his homeland. "And so very, very happy."