New ideas weigh heavy in lift­ing evo­lu­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Pringsewu, In­done­sia

In­side a spar­tan weightlift­ing gym in In­done­sia, teenagers chalk their hands, grit their teeth and thrust faded metal bar­bells above their heads, hope­ful of Olym­pic glory.

Many of In­done­sia’s sport­ing leg­ends were bred in small­town clubs, whipped into shape by old-school coaches and re­lent­less train­ing.

But as In­done­sia strives to in­crease its gold-medal haul at the 2018 Asian Games and Tokyo 2020, there’s a push to mod­ern­ize such sports.

The im­port of for­eign ex­per­tise and a fo­cus on nu­tri­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion was cred­ited with In­done­sia’s weightlifters bag­ging two sil­ver medals at the Rio Games.

“In­done­sia has a lot of tal­ent in weightlift­ing,” na­tional team man­ager Alam­syah Wi­jaya said.

“It’s time for us to pro­mote that to the world.”

But the sport still strug­gles to at­tract the fund­ing and fan base en­joyed by bad­minton — In­done­sia’s main medal earner, and a source of na­tional pride.

In weightlift­ing, hopes for gold in ma­jor cham­pi­onships are pinned on a crop of promis­ing young­sters emerg­ing from thread­bare acad­e­mies across the coun­try.

The fed­er­a­tion is try­ing to lure these bud­ding stars to the capital Jakarta, where tai­lored ex­er­cise programs en­sure they have their best shot at build­ing strength, avoid­ing in­jury and win­ning medals.

It can be a chal­lenge get­ting some young lifters to leave their beloved home­town clubs for the big smoke, Wi­jaya said.

Things are still done the old­fash­ioned way at weightlift­ing clubs across Lam­pung, a forested prov­ince in Su­ma­tra famed for de­vel­op­ing top-class lifters.

Of the 10 Olym­pic weightlift­ing medals won by In­done­sia, seven were claimed by ath­letes who ei­ther hailed from, or trained in, Lam­pung.

They didn’t use sport sci­ence, only power sci­ence. Weightlift­ing is chang­ing, and we’re try­ing too but face many con­straints.”

Many trained at the ‘ ele­phant club’ in Pringsewu — ar­guably the most fa­mous no-frills weightlift­ing clinic in the en­tire coun­try.

For nearly 50 years Im­ron Rosadi — an oc­to­ge­nar­ian for­mer world cham­pion with an eagle eye for tal­ent — has slowly ex­panded the mod­est gym at the back of his fam­ily home into a weightlift­ing club with a fear­some rep­u­ta­tion.

Much of the equip­ment is decades old: bench presses and metal weights chipped of all paint, and wooden lift­ing plat­forms splin­tered from thou­sands of dropped bar­bells.

Most of the 30 boys and girls at the academy are from poor neigh­bor­hoods who see weightlift­ing as a path to wealth.

Wi­jaya — who also trained in his youth at Rosadi’s clinic — is con­cerned these hopes and dreams could amount to zero if pro­vin­cial clubs don’t adopt a more sci­en­tific ap­proach.

Most lo­cal clubs are set in their ways and don’t care for rest days or nu­tri­tion, he said, re­sult­ing in high in­jury rates.

“They didn’t use sport sci­ence, only power sci­ence,” Wi­jaya said. “Weightlift­ing is chang­ing, and we’re try­ing too but face many con­straints.” can glazed duck con­fit.

Vir­tu­ally un­known at lo­cal Christ­mas din­ner ta­bles, the bulk of Volex’s pro­duc­tion will go to France.

This year, Bul­garia and Hun­gary es­ti­mate that sales in newer mar­kets could shoot up by around 15 per­cent as French ex­ports out­side the EU have been hit by re­peated bird flu scares.

“If 10 years ago we sold 100 per­cent of our pro­duce to France, now this share is about 80 per­cent,” said Volex fac­tory owner Pla­men Chelebiev.

For the past four years, his sales have been in­creas­ing in Switzer­land and Ja­pan, and more re­cently also in Viet­nam and Thai­land.

“In these mar­kets we sell our prod­ucts un­der our own brand names and at much higher prices, which makes it more in­ter­est­ing for us,” Chelebiev said.

But Volex is also do­ing well in­side the EU.

In Spain and Bel­gium, “we’re now sell­ing our prod­ucts with­out pass­ing via France,” Chelebiev added.

But all this notwith­stand­ing, nei­ther Bul­garia nor Hun­gary have the ca­pac­ity to con­quer tra­di­tional French mar­kets.

In 2015, France pro­duced around 19,000 tons of foie gras, while Bul­garia came a dis­tant sec­ond with 2,500 tons and Hun­gary third with 2,000 tons.

So eyes are now fo­cused on the bur­geon­ing ap­petite for lux­ury prod­ucts in Asia.

“We have ex­panded our pres­ence in Ja­pan and also started re­cently to sell in Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land,” said a Hun­gar­ian pro­ducer, re­quest­ing anonymity.

“They can­not match de­mand by solely buy­ing from France.”

Alam­syah Wi­jaya, In­done­sia’s na­tional weightlift­ing team man­ager of foie gras was pro­duced by France in 2015.

GOH CHAI HIN / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Young weightlifters train at the ‘ele­phant club’, a pri­vate academy in Pringsewu in Lam­pung, Su­ma­tra. More than 30 girls and boys from mainly poor neigh­bor­hoods at­tend the academy.

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