Tue, 04 Sep 2001

Indonesian team told to return victorious

JAKARTA (JP): President Megawati Soekarnoputri asked on Monday the Indonesian team bound for the 21st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games to participate and return as winner of the event.

Speaking in front of the Indonesian contingent that will depart for Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, Megawati asked the team to enter the competition with great confidence to win and bring back as many gold medals as possible.

"In the name of all the Indonesian people, I call on you to bring back as many gold medals as possible ... It is a tough fight, but I believe if you have a confidence and dignity you will come home as winners," Megawati remarked.

"I know that you may think that Ibu (mother) is asking too much," she said, referring to herself.

Megawati, in an off-the-cuff speech, further said that she was paying special attention to the team and was ready to send off the contingent for the games because she expected the team to do its best in the upcoming competition.

"I remember that if the President sent off a sports delegation then it would bring good luck," the President said.

Indonesia is sending 541 athletes, 139 coaches and 179 officials to form the 901-strong contingent that is taking part in 29 out of 32 sports, omitting handball, netball and petanque.

National Sports Council (KONI) chairman Wismoyo Arismunandar accompanied the team during the courtesy call.

"The Indonesian contingent has been set a target of winning some 102 gold medals, mostly from pencak silat, badminton and swimming," Wismoyo told the President.

"It has taken some Rp 41 billion (US$4.8 million) to finance the whole contingent and its preparations," he added.

KONI has been reluctant to claim that it will take the overall winner title but instead has set a target of winning more than 100 gold medals, implying the runner-up position.

The country's financial condition, however, prevented KONI from doing its utmost in achieving the target.

The last time Indonesia topped the SEA Games medals tally was in 1997 at home, winning 194 gold medals, 101 silver and 115 bronze in 34 sports contested.

At the Bandar Seri Begawan 1999 SEA Games, however, Indonesia slumped to third place, with only 44 golds, 43 silver and 58 bronze, behind Thailand and Malaysia.

Host Malaysia is targeting some 80 to 100 gold medals, with Thailand looking the strong candidate to defend its title.

Vietnam will offer tough opposition as it will warm up for the next SEA Games to which it will play host in 2003. It has set its sights on reaping between 40 and 50 gold medals. (dja/nvn)