TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The failure of the Indonesian contingent to achieve its target at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur is proof that something is not right in the management of sports in this country. Indonesia should focus on sports that have the potential to win gold medals in Asian and international competitions.
Despite sending 534 athletes to compete in 36 different sports, instead of coming top in the SEA Games as President Joko Widodo wanted, our contingent only brought home 28 gold medals and fell to fifth place. This was the worst performance since Indonesia first took part in the Southeast Asian Games in 1977. Indonesia, which has topped the medal table ten times, has never won fewer than 40 golds. Two years ago, in Singapore, Indonesia won 47 gold medals.
The excuse that this failure was the consequences of not enough medals available for sports that Indonesia does well in - such as rowing, women's weightlifting, beach volleyball or wrestling - does not explain everything. From the beginning, Indonesian Gold Program Implementation Unit (Satlak Prima), which is responsible for preparing athletes, should maximize preparations for athletes who could win golds in sports such as swimming, athletics, archery, and gymnastics, in which there are many medals up for grabs.
There is nothing wrong with setting ambitious targets, but it is much more important to focus on preparations for sports we excel at, particularly those that feature in the Olympics. If we want to dominate multi-sport games, we should prioritize those sports with many events and medals. With proper training and development, Indonesia has the potential to do well on the world stage in many sports. This would be far better than trying to collect as many SEA Games golds as possible, but not being able to compete in Asian and international events.
Reflecting on the decline in Kuala Lumpur, Satlak Prima must set a more realistic target for the Asian Games, which will be held in Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 – September 2, 2018. The target of finishing in the top ten, as announced by Satlak Prima, should be corrected because as well as the declining performance of its athletes, there is only a year left to prepare. Indonesia must not be embarrassed at home by the mediocre performance of its athletes especially if there are problems with the organization because the games infrastructure is not ready-many works have not yet been completed.
The selection of athletes should be more rigorous. Only those medal-winning potential should be sent. With a target of 15–20 golds, Satlak Prima should find out which athletes have the potential to win. There is no need to register large numbers of athletes like in the recent SEA Games but lack the optimum preparation. The available funding must be focused on preparing them by, for example improving the poor nutrition that several athletes have complained about, and sending them to more overseas competitions.
Indonesia could achieve the target by panning for gold in sports proposed by the hosts, such as paragliding, bridge and jet-skiing, which are clearly games, rather than sports. But there is no pride in such achievements. The Asian Games and the SEA games should be a stepping stone to international triumphs.
Read the full story in this week’s edition of Tempo English Magazine