Thursday, January 13, 2011

2010 Review: Plenty of Winning Moments for Indonesian Sports

Members of Indonesia Members of Indonesia's dragon boat team celebrate after winning the men's 1,000-meter race at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, in November. The rowers took home three golds to inarguably become the year’s best Indonesian sportsmen. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara) 
It’s not about how fast one starts but how strong one finishes. That’s the lesson local sports fans will take away from the 2010 sporting season — one that didn’t really kick off until the last quarter of the year.

Asian Games gold, Herwin Jaya’s historic Tour d’Indonesia win and Rio Haryanto’s prestigious Formula 1 trial drive in November, Chris John’s return in December, as well as achievements in Indonesia’s very own pencak silat all came as the year drew to a close. Better late than never, as they say.

Dragon Boat: Men’s Team

The team almost didn’t make it to the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou as the Indonesian National Sports Committee (KONI) insisted it would be too expensive to send the 22-strong team to China.

However, KONI changed its mind after the team swept all six events at the first International Dragon Boat Regatta in South Korea in September.

In the Asian Games, the rowers proved KONI had made the right call, going three-for-three in Guangzhou to inarguably become the year’s best Indonesian sportsmen. Maybe even richest too, after the government awarded each rower Rp 1.2 billion ($133,000) as a reward for their treble gold wins.

Badminton: Markis Kido And Hendra Setiawan

The country’s top men’s doubles shuttlers didn’t have their best season in 2010 after withdrawing from the national training camp earlier this year, but in a way they still delivered.

Despite failing to take a single title in the top-flight Super Series, the 2008 Olympic gold medalists capped the season with a gold medal in the Asian Games when they beat world No. 1 pair Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong of Malaysia in the final.

Markis and Hendra, both 26, are now setting their sights on Olympic gold in London, 2012.

Boxing: Chris John

It was not so much his performance that put Indonesia’s most accomplished boxer in the headlines for the year as his absence.

Chris returned to competitive boxing in December for the first time since September 2009, after spending most of the year being injured, recovering and then getting injured again.

His only fight came in December when he convincingly defeated Argentina’s Fernando Saucedo, but just seeing Chris back in the ring again and fighting on home soil for the first time since 2008 was good news for Indonesian boxing fans.

Next up for the national favorite is a possible date with reigning world featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa of Cuba.

Motor Racing: Rio Haryanto

Rio was the talk of the town this December when he became the first Indonesian driver to try out a Formula One racing car.

Rio was invited by Virgin Racing to test drive its vehicle after his impressive stint in the GP3 series, in which he won one race and took three other podium places.

He drove Virgin Racing’s 2010 VR-01 during the two-day Young Driver Test held in Abu Dhabi in November, and if things go as planned more will be expected yet of the precocious 17-year-old.

Cycling: Herwin Jaya

The Tour d’Indonesia finally belongs to, well, Indonesians.

Surabaya-born Herwin Jaya clinched the tour title in 2010 to become the first local rider to win the premier cycling competition.

His team, Polygon Sweet Nice, made it a double win for the nation when it secured victory in the team classification.

Basketball: Satria Muda Britama

Mention sports dynasties in Indonesia and the name Satria Muda Britama inevitably comes to mind.

Not only did the Jakarta club win the Indonesian Basketball League for an unprecedented fifth time running, but it also joined the inaugural Asean Basketball League. Coach Fictor Gideon Roring virtually used the same lineup for both competitions.

But while the team fell short in the ABL — Satria Muda lost 3-0 to the Philippine Patriots in the final in February — there is no doubt which Indonesian ball club is still far and away the best.

Football: Arema Indonesia

Early in the season no one would have dared bet on Arema Indonesia to become the Indonesian Super League champion for the 2009-10 season, but in the end, the team defied all odds.

In his debut season, Dutch coach Robert Rene Alberts managed to forge the young team into a formidable group that clinched its first top-tier title since its win in the semi-pro Galatama back in 1992-93 season.

The Malang club finished the league four points clear of Persipura Jayapura in May, and is setting its sights on the Asian Champions League next year.

Martial Arts: Pencak Silat

Although originally developed in Indonesia, pencak silat has been dominated by regional rival Vietnam for almost a decade now.

But this year, Indonesia’s pesilats (pencak silat athletes) fought their way back to regain the pinnacle of the national sport and emerged the overall champions at the conclusion of the 14th World Pencak Silat Championships in Jakarta in December.

Indonesia bagged 10 gold medals, five silvers and six bronzes. Vietnam finished second with eight golds, eight silvers, and three bronzes, followed by Malaysia (4-4-6) and Brunei (1-0-3).
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