SEA Games 2017

SEA Games: Indonesia have it all to do for next year’s Asiad

Erick Thohir, Indonesia Asian Games Organising Committee president (above).
Erick Thohir, Indonesia Asian Games Organising Committee president (above).

With only 32 golds and just two days of the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games left, this has been one of the most underwhelming performances by Indonesia at the biennial affair in recent years.

The regional giant's lowest haul at the Games was 43 golds at the 2009 edition in Laos, where there were just 25 sports offered. There are 38 sports on offer in Malaysia.

Their gold tally so far is even lower than Singapore's 49.

Indonesia has claimed bragging rights as the overall champions a record 10 times - three more than second-placed Thailand - since the SEA Games began in 1977, although the only times they have topped the tally in the last 10 editions were in 1997 and 2011 as hosts.

Set against this backdrop, it was no surprise that Indonesia National Olympic Committee president Erick Thohir noted some "introspection" was needed and a review would take place soon after tomorrow's closing ceremony.

Time is of the essence. In less than a year, Indonesia will host the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang and has set itself a top-10 finish.

It last achieved that at the 1990 Beijing Asiad (finishing seventh). The first, and only, time so far that Indonesia hosted the quadrennial showpiece, second only to the Olympic Games in terms of scale, was in 1962 and it was second, its best performance.

WE'LL GET IT RIGHT

It will be different at the Asian Games as 90 per cent of sports will follow the Tokyo Olympics. Right now we are not comparing apples to apples.''

ERICK THOHIR, Indonesia Asian Games Organising Committee president, promising a much-improved performance next year.

Thohir, who is in China to attend Olympic Council of Asia meetings, told The Straits Times yesterday: "Based on this morning's numbers (31 golds), we will miss our target by around 20 per cent.

"While there have been some positives like swimming and archery (each delivered four golds), this is far from our best performance and we must learn from it."

He pointed to Vietnam, which sent 476 athletes, as an example of "effectiveness" worth studying.

The Vietnamese have won 146 medals, fewer than Indonesia's 150 and the lowest among the top five nations, but 54 of them are gold.

"It's a high percentage. They are interested only in golds."

There was no need to hit the panic button yet, Thohir said.

"This is not a systemic problem. Our main priority has always been the Asian Games.

"We have a track record in sports like archery, badminton and weightlifting and we will focus on these.

"There will also be overseas training to get our athletes ready. We have 11 months which is sufficient time to prepare."

Indonesia will host the 18th Asiad next year from Aug 18 to Sept 2.

Thohir also revisited the point made by Thailand's chef de mission Thana Chaiprasit over the weekend that Malaysia has the prerogative as SEA Games host to rejig the programme, and had been careful with its selection of sports and events.

Thohir, who is also chairman of the Indonesia Asian Games Organising Committee, said: "It will be different at the Asian Games as 90 per cent of sports will follow the Tokyo Olympics.

"Right now we are not comparing apples to apples."

It was undeniable, though, that a cloud of malaise has set over the 534-strong Indonesian contingent, as a string of top athletes have struggled.

Reigning Asian Games long jump champion Maria Londa could manage only a silver at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.

Weightlifter Eko Yuli Irawan, a three-time Olympic medallist, suffered his first SEA Games defeat yesterday, losing to unheralded Trinh Van Vinh of Vietnam.

In badminton at the Axiata Arena, men's doubles pair and second seeds Fajar Alfian and Rian Ardianto were slumped on the floor minutes after losing 17-21, 21-23 in yesterday's semi-finals to Thai fourth seeds Kittinupon Kedren and Dechapol Puavaranukroh.

Of the five finals to be contested tonight, Indonesia, who won the men's team title last week, have only one representative, Jonatan Christie, in the men's singles.

Rian said: "We should have been more confident because we are better than them but instead we tried to finish the match quickly and made mistakes."

Added Fajar: "There's always a burden to win gold and we felt pressured. We are sorry to all Indonesians."

Sorry, I know Inter did not go Dutch, says Thohir

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2017, with the headline 'Indonesia have it all to do for next year's Asiad'. Print Edition | Subscribe