After a good showing at the Southeast Asian Games, Indonesian athletes are looking forward to a bigger event, next year’s Olympic Games, and the government has set aside the funds to help them.
Eleven Indonesian athletes have so far qualified for the Games in London, which take place on July 27-Aug. 12, and the National Sports Committee (KONI) has pledged to use a large chunk of its resources for their training.
KONI’s new chairman, Tono Suratman, told reporters on Monday that of the Rp 250 billion ($27.5 million) KONI has received from the government for developing athletes, the biggest portion would go toward Olympic preparations.
“The Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs has given us the funds for next year, so we can now start preparing athletes for international tournaments in 2012, especially the Olympics,” said Tono, who was voted in as KONI’s chairman, replacing Rita Subowo, in a Dec. 2 election.
National training camps for the athletes will kick off in January, Tono said, and will be supervised by the Golden Indonesia Program (Prima). The qualifying period for the Games will run until June, he said.
Indonesia has earned five tickets to the Games for its swimmers and five for its weight lifters, but the individual athletes to go will be determined later. Archer Ika Yuliana Rochmawati clinched her own spot after she won the women’s individual recurve in an Olympic qualification event at the Asian Archery Championships in Tehran on Oct. 24.
Indonesia sent 24 athletes to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and finished at 42nd among all countries, earning one gold medal, one silver and three bronze.
KONI is aiming to send more athletes to London, either through success in qualifying tournaments or by lobbying international sports federations for wildcard entries.
Tono also announced a change in KONI’s funding scheme that will take effect next year.
Previously, KONI only took care of athletes who were in the national training camps, while professional athletes were left to fend for themselves financially.
“There will be no longer divisions of training camp and non-training camp athletes. They are all Indonesian athletes — Prima’s athletes — who’ll fight for the country in the Olympics, so they deserve the same treatment,” Tono said.
Badminton shuttler Markis Kido hailed the decision.
“That is a great news for us, the athletes who have withdrawn from the national training camps,” said Markis, who with partner Hendra Setiawan grabbed Indonesia’s lone gold medal in Beijing by winning the men’s double. “That will help ease our financial burden because in the past after withdrawing from the camp we have had to use our own money for training and playing in tournaments.”
Markis and Hendra, the World No. 10 pair, are still struggling to qualify for 2012 Olympics as only the top eight doubles teams will earn tickets to London.
Beside the Olympics, KONI and Prima will also prepare athletes for the 2012 Asian Beach Games in Haiyang, China, the 2013 Asian Youth Games in Nanjing, China, and the 2013 SEA Games in Burma.
Indonesia topped the SEA Games medal tally last month for the first time in 14 years, which may prove to be the start of the country’s sporting rejuvenation.