Sun, 06 Aug 2000

Sports promise bright future: Ismu

JAKARTA (JP): Most youngsters nowadays avoid a career in sports due to the poor prospect, but young hopeful table-tennis player Ismu Harinto said he wanted to set an example that sports did promise a bright future.

But such a desire will cost him hard work and dedication, since table tennis is less popular in Indonesia than in the other Asian countries, like China or Singapore.

"I want to pursue a career as a table-tennis player. I think achievement and reward go hand-in-hand. Imagine how much money you will get as a bonus if you can win in a multisports event, like the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, the Asian Games or even the Olympic Games," he said over the weekend.

He recalled that he received Rp 35 million (US$4,000) after he won gold in the team event and bronze in the men's doubles of the 1997 SEA Games here. At that time, he was partnering Hadi Yudo Prajitno in the doubles.

The 2000 Olympic Games will be Ismu's international debut. Ismu and senior partner Anton Suseno qualified for the quadrennial event after finishing eighth in the men's doubles after China Taipei and Vietnam, in sixth and seventh place.

Anton is the only Southeast Asian player to qualify for the Olympic men's singles.

Ismu plans to compete in a professional tour, which offers a minimum of $15,000 in prize money. Until now, he has received sponsorship from his club, Gani Artha, in Bandung.

"I and Anton often compete in pro tours because we have our own sponsors. I have not reached the top of my achievement. Hopefully, the Olympics can be a springboard to move up."

Born in Klaten, Central Java, on May 16, 1974, Ismu learned table tennis at the age of 11 from his brother, Sigit Setiawan. Sigit's top achievement was a gold medal in the 1989 National Games in Jakarta and he is now the assistant coach of Jakarta- based UMS '80 table-tennis club.

His father, L. Soetoto, at first showed disapproval over Ismu's table tennis playing. When Ismu was 12, Soetoto turned down an offer from Djarum Kudus club to groom Ismu in its long- term training center. But the rebuff encouraged Ismu to move ahead with all the consequences.

When Ismu was 13, he sneaked out of his home to take part in the Rajawali Open in a nearby Kudus city. He finished first in the Young Hope event for players under 14.

"My heart filled such pride so that I felt I was almost flying into the sky. I came home soon after the victory ceremony as I had not said anything to my dad upon my departure. But my dad refused to acknowledge my achievement. He said sarcastically: 'Do you want to eat your trophy for your life?'," Ismu said.

"I actually got a boost from dad's remark. I told myself that I should fare better than this. After that, I won some tournaments and dad started to show a little mercy toward my sports activity. Only after I entered the first year of senior high school did my dad give a green light to play table tennis."

Ismu said that Sigit received the same treatment and was also allowed to compete when at senior high school age. Though Ismu failed to avow it, he knew in his heart that his father was proud of him.

"Until now, my dad watches me play in various tournaments. My mom, Kusbandiyah, never accompanies me because she does not dare to see me defeated. I now understand that my dad did not want me to stop school for sports."

He is now studying at the STIA Bagasasi administration institute in Bandung and the Indonesian Christian University here. When he quits table tennis, Ismu said, he wants to set up a club. "I want to gather kids and invite them to play table tennis. But I probably will not become a coach."(ivy)