An Interview With Greys Polii: The Admirable Story of Pursuing Passion with Perseverance.

The girl who will be leaving 20something season in the next few weeks have been a friend of mine probably since 2009 or 2010. Sharing the same pride of being heirs of Minahasan (one of the tribes in Indonesia, located in North Sulawesi) blood, was one of the things that made our friendship flows quite naturally.

Greys Polii (Gel) has always been kind-hearted, easy going and very humble person, even though she was already a star in the national sports field, when we first became friends. From the first hang out to following each other on Twitter, and even until she finally won her first Gold Medal and ranked Number 2 in the Badminton Women’s Doubles World Rank, Gel remains as humble as ever. Nothing has changed except now that she is more mature and wise in handling challenges. That is why I decided to feature her and get some worth-sharing insights that hopefully could enrich your twenty-something journey.

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TPOB20: Who is Greys Polii in your own eyes?
Gel:ย 
Greys Polii career-wise she is a very ambitious and strong-willed woman who will give 200% focus and energy to make sure she got what she wants. But at the same time, she knows when and how to rest. For her, working and resting ย must go hand-in-hand. In daily life, she’s a very sociable person, easy to make new friends and have high level of curiosity. She loves to learn from other people’s stories.

TPOB20: The question “What do you do” would be irrelevant to you, as most people, especially Indonesians must have heard about your astonishing achievements in Badminton. So, why don’t you share the story of how did you get into this career path.
Gel:ย 
Haha.. yea, there’s nothing interesting about “What I do” because I spend my days practicing and traveling for championship. I don’t have much time flexibility to do anything else outside of badminton. I’ve spent my whole life living at the dormitory with other badminton athletes, and only got to meet my family and friends during weekend or holiday.

I started playing badminton since I was only a 5-year-old kid. My mom, who was a tennis player, started to introduce me to both sports, but then I loved badminton more than tennis. We even moved from Manado (the capital city of North Sulawesi) to Jakarta when I was 8 to join a club. I remember she challenged the 8-year-old me whether I want to be a badminton player or not, if yes then we have to move to Jakarta so that I can get more serious in preparing myself to be an athlete.

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Three years later, when I was 11, I decided to get more serious in badminton and started to live in the dormitory. It was a total game-changer for me when I got separated from my Mom, which forced me to grow up independently. For me it was like the real moment where I said to myself, “This is it…” When I was 14, I started to wonder about my true calling and purpose. I realized that my life and talent is not only about being a world champion, but there’s gotta be something bigger, which is to be the best at what I do in order to inspire and bless other people.

At that moment I also had to choose which category (Singles, Doubles, or Mixed Doubles) of badminton that I want to focus on. Everyone I know (friends, family, coach) encouraged me to play in Singles or Mixed Doubles category, yet I was so convinced that I’m meant for Women’s Doubles category. When I told them that I chose to focus on Women’s Doubles, they considered my decision as foolish because Indonesia’s Women’s Doubles team haven’t won anything. China have been dominating the Women’s Doubles category for 20 to 30 years. It would be a lot easier and faster for me to become successful to play at Singles or Mixed Doubles. Although everyone I know was against my decision, I decided to continue and believed that I could make a history in this particular category.

TPOB20: How did it go? Did you ever change your mind or regret your decision?
Gel: Although the process and journey was really tough and challenging, I had never regretted or changed my mind about it.

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TPOB20: Tell us more about it. What was your biggest challenge, or your lowest point in pursuing your dream?
Gel:ย 
Well, 2012 was the lowest point in my life. I was 25 at that time. After 11 years of working hard and longing for a breakthrough, which is to be the first in Women’s Doubles, life decided to turn its back on me. I was disqualified at the Olympic Games for something that my partner and I didn’t do. We were accused of playing dirty in the Olympic Games and the saddest part was that we had to submit to the International Olympic Committee. The government apologized to us for not being able to help us out of the situation despite of the fact that we were not guilty. The IOC insisted that we had to bear the consequences otherwise Indonesia, particularly Badminton won’t be included in the next Olympic Games.

It was an utterly devastating experience. I felt like I’ve climbed way too high for 11 years only to be dragged down and hit the solid bottom. Somehow I lost focus and felt like the dream that I’ve been pursuing with high hopes and perseverance was totally unreachable. As disappointed as it was, I decided to quickly move on. I refused to give up and lose hope, and kept on trying until the promotion finally came in 2014, which has changed my life forever. Together with my partner, Nitya Krishinda Maheswari, won the Gold Medal at Asian Games in Korea, and we ranked number two in World Women’s Double.

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TPOB20: What are your work values that brought you here?
Gel: Perseverance and strong determination. I’ve made so many mistakes, but that shouldn’t stop me from getting back up every time I stumbled.

TPOB20: What kind of thing disturbs or angers you the most?
Gel: Dishonesty. Every one has a problem and past that they have to deal with, but as humans we need to learn how to be bold. Once we live freely in the open, being honest and transparent about our lives we gain freedom. Fear could not conquer us. People who are dishonest can’t enjoy a free live, because fear will sooner or later haunt them.

TPOB20: What kind of activity do you do to refuel your creative tanks?
Gel:ย 
Uhmm.. I do a lot of stuff in my spare time because I have high level of curiosity so I keep wanting to try new things: reading books, learning how to play a guitar, keyboards, taking a diving lesson, mount climbing, learning about public speaking, and other languages like English and Mandarin.

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TPOB20: What would you do when you stop playing badminton?ย 
Gel: Being an athlete in Indonesia is not easy. Even though we have sacrificed and gave everything for our country, once we stop our duty we are on our own. We need to plan for our lives if we want to live a life with financial freedom once we retired. That’s where I want to involve myself in after retirement. I want to help educate the next generation of athletes how crucial it is for them to manage their income, to challenge their way of thinking so that they could plan ahead, and not only live for the moment.

TPOB20: Now that you have won a gold medal, what would be your next big dream to pursue?
Gel: Definitely winning gold medal on a higher level, for example at the Olympic and becoming a world champion. Or, perhaps getting the first rank, because currently my partner and I are in number 2 of world rank.

TPOB20: Lastly, now that you are about to leave 20s, what is the perks of being 20 to you?
Gel: Hmm.. what we do in our twenties will affect our lives in our thirties. What we do in our thirties will affect us in our forties. And so on… That’s why it’s important for us not to live carelessly, because what we do today will determine the quality of our lives in the next season. I’m grateful that I have found my purpose and passion long way before I hit 20. By discovering my purpose, I now have a fulfilled life and clear direction of where I’m going.

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She closed our conversation with a simple encouragement for you who is on the run of pursuing your passion, particularly in sports: “Give the best of you in every thing that you do, especially in sports. Give 1000% focus and energy. Don’t pursue your passion and dreams half-heartedly because you will never be able to achieve it.”

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)