JAKARTA (JP): Pencak silat is known all over the world as Indonesia's martial art. In international tournaments, Indonesian athletes have always dominated the event. But for the 20th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Brunei Darussalam next month, Indonesia is tipped to only win eight of 21 golds on offer in the event.
This figure is only half of Indonesia's victory total in the 1997 SEA Games here, where they won 17 of the 20 golds. The other three golds went to Vietnam. Indonesian Pencak Silat Association (IPSI) chairman Eddy Nalapraya expressed optimism Indonesian athletes would be able to reach the target of eight golds.
"We are still optimistic for all the events, but the skills of the athletes from other Southeast Asian countries are almost equal to our athletes," he said, as quoted by Republika daily. SEA Games chef de mission Mochammad Hindarto has expressed his disappointment with the medal targets of several main sports organizations target, saying the goals were too low.
"It's quite impossible that our pencak silat athletes can only win eight gold medals. I'm sure they can win more," he said. However, IPSI executive director Oyong Kramayudha said Indonesian athletes were having difficulty with their training.
"Neighboring countries can come to our dormitory in East Jakarta for their training, but our athletes can only compete among themselves because we don't have any athletes abroad," he said. Vietnamese athletes had a one-month stint in Jakarta and Bali in May, Singapore sent its athletes to a two-week training session in West Java, Jakarta and Bali in June while athletes from Brunei Darussalam also had two weeks of training in East Java.
Oyong said six countries competing in the SEA Games were preparing for the event by hiring Indonesian pencak silat coaches. "Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and host Brunei are hiring our coaches. I think they will improve soon," he said.
But Indonesia's Haris Nugroho has a different opinion. "By having other countries practicing here, we can see their real strength. Some of the athletes from these countries are practicing in different weight categories but we didn't give them a full fight," he said.
"It's not good if Indonesian athletes are too dominant in pencak silat. If we have equal rivals, it will give us new challenges," said Haris, who competes in the 65 to 70 kilograms division. Haris said he must be wary of Singaporean Abdul Kadir in this division.
"I met him during the training here last month and I know that he wants to avenge his 1997 SEA Games defeat here," said the 1997 SEA Games gold medalist, adding that he was well prepared to compete in the biennial event. In the SEA Games from Aug. 7 to Aug. 15, pencak silat will feature two divisions of fighting and arts.
Fighting is divided into 10 weight categories: A (45-50kgs), B (50-55kgs), C (55-60kgs), D (60-65kgs), E (65-70kgs), F (70-75kgs), G (75-80kgs), H (80-85kgs), I (85-90kgs) and J (90-95kgs). The arts are divided into men's and women's wiragana (single), men's and women's wirasangga (doubles) and men's and women's wiraloka (team).
In the arts events, athletes are judged on their fighting choreography using one or two weapons. Athletes are allowed to choose from a sickle, dagger, bolo knife, sword, toya (a long stick), trident, whip and lancor (traditional Madurese spear).
"It's not easy to compete in the arts events because we must totally concentrate on our performance to avoid being hurt by the weapons," arts specialist Heni Marhendrawati said. IPSI deputy of athlete development Puji Handoko said he arranged to have athletes focus on individual training.
"Athletes' training programs were based on each individual's strengths and weaknesses. The programs also include work on their mental preparation," he said. National athletes were involved in domestic training in Yogyakarta and Bali last month. "Generally, the results of the training were satisfying but we are still working on athletes' weaknesses, particularly their speed," he said.
Men: Abas Akbar, Abdul Rochim, Agus L, Cecep Aziiz Ramdhani, Eko Wahyudi, Hans Luther Manam, Haris Nugroho, Hendro Wardoyo, Jeje Nursabah, Joko Suprihatno, Nur Iskak Al Jufri, Rony Syaifullah, Samuel Mallo, Sukma Satria, Torikul Anwar Women: Alfana, Heni Marhendrawati, Hermy Setya Wati, Marniati Siregar, Ni Made Suparmi, Ni Made Wahyuni, Permata Kemalasari, Rina Dwi Astuti, Siti Dwi Astuti, Siti Sudiharti, Widya Astuti
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