Sat, 12 Apr 2003

Yulianti dreams of sweet career close

Musthofid, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Fauziah Yulianti, who has been a regular player in the national table tennis team for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games since 1995, expects a memorable ending to her career when she competes in Vietnam for her last appearance.

"I want to win a gold medal at the SEA Games. It's always been my obsession," Yuli, as the 27-year-old veteran player prefers to be called, told The Jakarta Post after she won a two-day qualifying competition event on Friday.

The victory has assured the East Java native a berth on the national team and yet another occasion to be featured at the next SEA Games, which will run in Vietnam this December.

Yuli earned three gold medals in her early performances in the biennial multi-event Games; one in 1995 and two in 1997. But those came from the team in the doubles event.

"I'm eager to win it in the singles," she said, adding that she planned to retire from the national team after this year's Games.

Given the current strength of table tennis in the region, which has seen Singapore dominate the game with its Chinese recruits, people may consider Yuli's hopes a bit too high.

To complicate matters more, Indonesian players, who have been regular gold medal recipients, have shown a steady decline with the last Games in 2001 marking their most rueful performance, with not a single gold to be brought home.

Despite the challenges that await her, Yuli is optimistic about a scheme drawn up by the Indonesian Table Tennis Association (PTMSI) to send Game hopefuls to training camp in North Korea for seven months.

"I will have to sharpen my footwork, backhands and blocks. And I hope that with strong sparring partners in Korea I will be able to build on those skills," she said.

At the two-day competition, which ended on Friday, Yuli was unstoppable at topping the standings with a perfect 14 points after beating the rest of the eight females.

Nilasari, Lindawati and Christine Ferliana finished in the top four.

David Yacob beat out the other 10 participants in the men's category with 18 points, putting his senior Deddy da Costa in second place. Yon Mardiono and Ismu Harinto followed in third and fourth place respectively.

PTMSI plans to groom four men and four women in Korea. While the winners have automatically secured places on the team, the other six will be selected from the list according to their potential in the doubles, Loka said.