JAKARTA (JP): Indonesian pendekar (fighters) Heny Marhendrawati and Widya Astuti will make their international debut at the 20th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Brunei Darussalam from Aug. 7 to Aug. 15.
As newcomers, they have the burden of upholding Indonesia's dominance in its traditional sport of pencak silat at the biennial event. "We were surprised when we were called to join the national training program for the SEA Games. But we are proud to do so. We'll do our best to win gold as our seniors did," said Heny, who was born in Surabaya on April 8, 1978.
Heny and partner Widya, born in Surabaya on Sept. 22, 1978, will compete in the women's wirasangga (doubles arts event) at the Games. They will display their fighting choreography using two sickles and a knife.
"We are working hard to improve our choreography. In arts, you must totally concentrate on the performance because you are using real weapons. My right leg was hurt twice by Heny's sickle during practice because of my lack of concentration," Widya said while showing her wounds.
Both athletes joined the national training program on June 14 after several tough selection tournaments in their hometown. They have managed to overcome their homesickness during the training and concentrate on their preparations for the Games. Heny and Widya competed with Pamur in their hometown of Surabaya.
With three of their teammates, they won the women's wiraloka (team event) gold medal at the 1997 World Championships in Kuala Lumpur. They also won the gold in the team event at the 1997 Nusantara Silat Festival in Trengganu, Malaysia. Heny, who is about 15 centimeters taller than Widya, expressed hope that they could have a match to evaluate the progress of their training.
"We still have no idea where our weaknesses lie. Of course, our coach has told us but that's not good enough," Heny said, adding that she knew nothing about the strengths of her rivals. Both Heny and Widya named Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Games host Brunei as their toughest rivals.
Heny began studying pencak silat in 1994 with her two older brothers.
"I just wanted to learn it. I never thought I would turn into an athlete," said the youngest of Soeharto and Rusmidah's 10 children. Widya was born into a family of pencak silat athletes. Her grandfather was a pendekar with the Bajing Loncat club in Pamekasan, Madura.
"It runs in the family. All family members learn pencak silat, but I am the only one who is serious in the sport," said the third child of Choidi Djajoes and Ariati. Neither Heny or Widya intend to switch to the fighting events. "We love the pencak silat arts. We will continue partnering until we are unable to compete," Heny said.
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