Old, new clash as In­done­sian weightlifters go for gold

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

PRINGSEWU: 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 small-town clubs, whipped into shape by old-school coaches and re­lent­less train­ing.

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

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

The podium fin­ishes gave weightlift­ing a much-needed pub­lic­ity boost. “In­done­sia has a lot of tal­ent in weightlift­ing,” na­tional team man­ager Alam­syah Wi­jaya told AFP. “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, and even harder to con­vince their coaches to let them go.

LEG­ENDARY SCHOOL

Things are still done the old-fash­ioned way at weightlift­ing clubs across Lam­pung, a forested prov­ince in Su­ma­tra famed for de­vel­op­ing top­class lifters.

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

To­day roughly 30 boys and girls eat, sleep and train to­gether at the acad­emy year round, for free, sur­rounded by tro­phies and pic­tures of the cham­pi­ons that pre­ceded them.

“We pro­vide every­thing here,” Rosadi told AFP. “This acad­emy is run like a fam­ily.”

Most of the re­cruits are from poor neigh­bour­hoods who see weightlift­ing as a path to unimag­in­able wealth. The ra­tio­nale is un­der­stand­able: In­done­sia hands huge bonuses and life­time pen­sions to ath­letes who win Olympic medals. Three-time Olympic medal­list and Lam­pung na­tive Eko Yuli Irawan only chose weightlift­ing as a child be­cause his lo­cal foot­ball club charged a fee.

“Num­ber one is money, be­cause peo­ple here are poor,” said Rosadi’s son Edy, a coach at the club, of his stu­dent’s mo­ti­va­tions. “They want a bet­ter life, and to help their par­ents and fam­ily.”

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 evolve with the times.

FRESH AP­PROACH

Pump­ing iron around the clock, with lit­tle rest, was once di rigueur in the weightlift­ing fra­ter­nity. But these reg­i­mens pi­o­neered in Sovi­et­style sports clubs left ath­letes crip­pled and coaches look­ing for al­ter­na­tives, he said.

“They didn’t use sport science, only power science,” Wi­jaya said.

“Weightlift­ing is chang­ing, and we’re try­ing too but face many con­straints.” Most lo­cal clubs are set in their ways and don’t care for rest days or nu­tri­tion, he said, re­sult­ing in high in­jury rates. At a re­cent na­tional youth cham­pi­onship south of Jakarta, se­lec­tors pulled aside ath­letes dis­play­ing poor tech­nique, fear­ing a po­ten­tial ca­reer-end­ing in­jury. Wi­jaya has been send­ing In­done­sia’s team doc­tor to Lam­pung for pe­ri­odic vis­its, but is care­ful not to tread on toes and of­fend “the le­gend” Rosadi.

In Jakarta, the fed­er­a­tion has been work­ing with a gov­ern­ment com­mit­tee whose sole ob­jec­tive is mould­ing promis­ing ath­letes for gold. They want to win 20 gold at a the next Asian Games-a far cry from the four snagged at the last meet. Wi­jaya has his eyes on three lifters from Lam­pung who show po­ten­tial, in­clud­ing 15-year-old Nur Vi­natasari, who won sil­ver in the World Youth Cham­pi­onships in Pe­nang in Oc­to­ber. The bright-eyed, broad-shoul­dered teenager is from Pringsewu-where a statue ele­phant lift­ing a bar­bell guards the city gates-and dreams of com­pet­ing at the Olympics.

“I want to be the pride of In­done­sia, and be­come world cham­pion,” she said.

LAM­PUNG: This photo taken on Novem­ber 7, 2016 shows young weightlifters train­ing at the ‘ele­phant club’, a pri­vate acad­emy in Pringsewu, a re­gency of Lam­pung in South­ern Su­ma­tra. Many of In­done­sia’s sport­ing le­gends were bred in small-town clubs, whipped into shape by old­school 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 mod­ernise such sports.

LAM­PUNG: This photo taken on Novem­ber 7, 2016 shows young weightlifters train­ing at the ‘ele­phant club’, a pri­vate acad­emy in Pringsewu, a re­gency of Lam­pung in South­ern Su­ma­tra.

LAM­PUNG: Young weightlifters train­ing at the ‘ele­phant club’, a pri­vate acad­emy in Pringsewu, a re­gency of Lam­pung in South­ern Su­ma­tra.

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