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Indonesian athletes urged to shine in Rio

Good luck!: President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (third left, back row) receives national athletes at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Wednesday. Indonesia will send at least 25 athletes to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from Aug. 5 to 21. The number may increase as some athletes are still fighting for their Olympic berths.(Antara/Puspa Perwitasari)

Amid a lackluster buildup to the upcoming Summer Olympics, national leaders and sports authorities have expressed their optimism about the medal prospects of Indonesia’s athletes.

During a send-off ceremony at the Presidential Palace, President Joko “Jokowi” gave an inspirational speech to the delegation in which he referred to the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, where Indonesia participated in the world’s biggest sporting gala for the first time.

Despite the fact that he was not born at the time of the 1952 Olympics, the President said he believed that Indonesia’s team had shown an “extraordinary spirit” in its first appearance.

“And [you must show] the same spirit to bring out the best in Indonesia,” Jokowi said.

Indonesia’s delegation currently consists of 25 athletes prepared to compete in badminton, weightlifting, rowing, cycling (BMX), archery and athletics. More are expected to be added to the list with athletes still fighting for qualification in swimming, beach volleyball and athletics.

The athletes heading to the Olympics, which will be hosted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from Aug. 5 to 21, are doing so against the backdrop of an unsuccessful run four years ago in London. In 2012, Indonesian shuttlers failed to deliver a single gold for the first time in two decades.

Badminton has been the only sport to have ever contributed to Indonesia’s gold count, which currently stands at six in the history of the country’s participation in the Olympics.

The country is again pinning its gold hopes on the sport although the chances look grim given the shuttlers’ inconsistencies in the tournaments leading up to Rio.

Indonesia did manage to advance to the finals of the Thomas Cup in May, but ended up empty-handed during the super series tournament held in June at home. Women’s doubles specialist Greysia Polii tried to dispel any negativity and expressed her optimism about the challenge.

“We are going there to do the best and be the best,” she said. She teamed up with Nitya Krishinda Maheswari to win gold for Indonesia at the Asian Games in 2014 after a decades-long drought in the women’s doubles. She said she would use the remaining 40 days to focus on training.

Debutant Praveen Jordan is looking to follow up on his All England triumph, pairing with Debby Susanto in the mixed doubles.

“We have been competing for the past year for this Olympics and we don’t want to waste this chance,” he said on the sidelines of a ceremony at the Youth and Sports Ministry office on Tuesday.

During the ceremony at the ministry, a trailer for the movie 3 Srikandi was screened and a pension scheme for successful Olympians was announced, all evidently seeking to boost the athletes’ spirits.

3 Srikandi tells the story of a trio of archers — Lilies Handayani, Nurfitriyana Saiman and Kusuma Wardhani — winning Indonesia’s first Olympic medal in Seoul in 1988.

The pension scheme will provide past and present Indonesian Olympics medalists with a lifetime monthly stipend of Rp 25 million (US$1,886) for gold medalists, Rp 15 million for silver medalists and Rp 10 million for bronze medalists.

Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi hoped that the pension scheme, whose first disbursement was promised this week, would fire up the athletes at the event.

“This will be a good opportunity for us to raise our Red-and-White flag. I believe the efforts that we have made so far will not end in vain,” he said.

While medals are the ultimate goal, Jokowi suggested that they were not the only goal. He urged the athletes to become true representatives of the country by upholding the spirit of sportsmanship, which, he said would inspire the people at home.

“What is more important than the medals is that all the athletes must show the world that Indonesia is a great and strong nation, which is able to compete mentally with other countries’ champions,” he said.

– Niken Prathivi contributed to the story

Indonesian Olympics athletes 2016

* Archery: Ika Yuliana Rochmawati, Riau Ega Agata Salsabilla, Muhammad Hanif, Hendra Wijaya

* Badminton: Tontowi Ahmad, Liliyana Natsir, Praveen Jordan, Debby Susanto, Hendra Setiawan, Muhammad Ahsan, Nitya Krishinda Maheswari, Greysia Polii, Tommy Sugianto, Linda Wenifanetri

* Cycling: Toni Syarifudin

* Rowing: La Memo, Dewi Yuliawati

* Athletics: Maria Natalia Londa

* Weightlifting: Eko Yuli Irawan, M. Hasbi, Triyatno, Deni, I Ketut Iriana, Sri Wahyuni, Dewi Safitri

Source: The Jakarta Post