Wed, 23 Aug 2000

Indonesia hopes for 2 gold medals in Olympic Games

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia is hoping to win two gold medals in the Sydney Olympic Games next month, improving its achievement of four years ago in Atlanta, Georgia, when national shuttlers Ricky Subagja and Rexy Mainaky brought home the country's sole gold.

The National Sports Council (KONI) chairman, Wismoyo Arismunandar, said on Tuesday after the Indonesian contingent installment ceremony that he was pinning all his hopes on national shuttlers, although Indonesia's chances in other sports were still wide open.

Indonesia -- which is sending 48 athletes, 23 coaches and 19 officials to the quadrennial event from Sept. 15 to Oct. 1 -- is also hoping to earn medals from women's weightlifting and windsurfing.

National badminton ace Hendrawan and teenage star Taufik Hidayat are strong candidates to win the men's singles title at the Olympics. However, they will face tough competition from Peter Gade Christensen and defending champion Poul-Erik Hoyer- Larsen of Denmark, Xia Xuanze of China and Wong Choon Hann of Malaysia.

"Winning both the Indonesia and Malaysia Open gave me the confidence to believe that I have a great chance to win the Olympics gold. But it will be the toughest competition as everybody wants the crown. I just have to prepare myself better," said Taufik, whose ranking will jump to number one from three after winning the Malaysia Open on Sunday.

Hendrawan declined to speak about his chances, but instead nodded briefly and said: "Just watch my performance at the Olympics."

Compatriot Marlev Mainaky is expected to be able to smoothen his teammates paths to the final. Indonesia's Alan Budikusuma won the men's singles gold in 1992 when badminton was featured for the first time.

In the men's doubles, which is one of Indonesia's strengths, world number one Candra Wijaya and Tony Gunawan are optimistic about their chances of taking the gold.

"We must win the gold. If we only bring home the silver, it would mean we failed," said Tony.

Indonesian doubles showed their might in tournaments prior to the Olympics with Flandy Limpele and Eng Hian managing to win the Malaysia Open.

"Our victory at the Malaysia Open will increase our motivation to win the gold medal. We are not afraid of any pairs in the world," said Eng Hian.

Both doubles will face South Koreans Kim Dong-moon and Ha Tae- kwon and also Lee Dong-soo and Yoo Yong-sung as tough contenders. Chinese Zhang Wei and Zhang Jun, Danish Jens Eriksen and Jesper Larsen, Malaysians Choong Tan Fook and Lee Wan Wah and seniors Ricky Subagja and Rexy Mainaky will be dark horses at the event.

Top 16

Swimmers Richard Sam Bera and Albert Sutanto aim to finish among the top 16 in their respective events.

Richard, who will compete in both 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle, said: "My personal target is to reach the semifinals at the Olympics. I, at the very least, have to be the fastest among the Asian swimmers in the event."

Richard, competing in his third Olympics, has never reached the semifinals before. In the 1988 Olympics he finished only in 32nd position while in 1996 he finished 25th.

Albert, who will swim in both 100m and 200m butterfly stroke events, said compared to Richard, he had a better chance of being among the top 16.

"Richard has to compete with big names like Alexander Popov of Russia and Ian Thorpe of Australia. I think I have a much better chance in my event."

Both Richard and Albert said reaching the top 16 was the most realistic target in the event.

"No Indonesian swimmers have ever managed to reach the semis. We want to draft a new history," Albert said.

Indonesian swimmers -- Richard, Albert, Felix Sutanto, Akbar Nasution, Stephen Chandra and women's swimmer Elsa Manora Nasution -- have been training for nearly eight months.

Albert, Felix and Stephen opted to train here while Richard, who has trained in California, returned home earlier as his mother passed away early this month.

Only Elsa and Akbar are training in Brisbane. (ivy/yan)