Sun, 13 Mar 2005

Women raise Indonesia through sports

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

In celebration of International Women's Day, which fell on Tuesday, the Sunday Post has compiled several articles on woman's issues, including the contributions of Indonesian women to sports (Page 1) and literature (Page 3). These are but a few examples of arenas where Indonesian women stand equal to men.

The Indonesian people should be grateful for the nation's women athletes, as they have lifted the country's image and name in the greatest sports competition on the planet.

For years, people at home could not smile in triumph, as no Indonesian athlete had brought home an Olympic medal -- until the women's archery team won a silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the country's first ever.

The success of the 1988 archery trio Lilis Handayani, Nurfitriyana and Kusumawardani was followed by badminton queen Susi Susanti, who won a gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Then, at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2004 Athens Olympics, women's weightlifter Lisa Rumbewas claimed a silver each to Indonesia's medal tally.

Aside from these contributions, tennis player Yayuk Basuki was seeded 20th in the 1990s, followed by Angelique Widjaja, who was seeded 55th in 2003.

While Indonesia's women athletes shone in several sporting events at the Olympic Games, men athletes have shone only in badminton so far with a gold at Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens.

Olympic silver medalist Lisa, who turns 25 on Sept. 10 this year, said that Indonesian women could lift the country's name through sports.

"I have proven it along with several women athletes before me," Lisa told The Jakarta Post.

"It is a matter of being disciplined, practicing hard and being dedicated to achieve the best you can in a sport you love," she said.

As women athletes had proven their worth at the Olympics, she said, Indonesian women should strive to realize their potential in sports and contribute the best to their country.

Lisa, who started weightlifting when she was nine years old, encouraged women to become more active in sports, including traditionally "male" sports such as weightlifting, judo, boxing, wrestling and track and field, if they had the talent.

"Just try the sport, including tough sports, because they will not change you as women," she said.

When women excelled in sports, she pointed out, they were also entitled to benefit from their achievements, like the government's bonus for athletes. Women athletes are awarded the same amount as men athletes, Lisa said.

"In this case, women and men are equal," she said.

Marathon runner Ferry Subnafeu, who just won second place at the Hong Kong Marathon in late February, was concerned about the limited stock of women athletes in long-distance running as well as other sporting events.

"So far, I have not seen young girls run in marathon. There must be something wrong with the development program," she said.

Meanwhile, the vice chair of the National Sports Council (KONI), Rita Subowo, said the people should indeed thank the country's women athletes for their contribution in sports.

"We should remember that we have several women Olympic medalists, like our women archers, then Susi Susanti in badminton and Lisa Rumbewas in weightlifting," she said.

"Now we need more women to play sports, because they have great potential."

However, she admitted that encouraging women to become professional athletes was a difficult task, partly because the government had not yet regulated athletes' welfare after their retirement.

Therefore, she hailed the government's effort to formulate a draft bill on sports that will provide financial and social security for athletes who have made international achievements, including women athletes.

More stories, photos Page 3, Page 20