Olympians join the race

Olympians join the race

Indonesian sprinter Purnomo ran for his country in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Now he is running for a seat in Parliament from Banten under the Gerindra banner.

Mr Purnomo, 51, is one of six Olympians contesting in Wednesday's elections, in what they say is an effort to make Indonesia "a powerhouse in sports". The others are sprinter Emma Latul Tahapari, a National Mandate Party (PAN) candidate in Maluku, shuttler Ricky Subagya, a NasDem candidate in West Java, boxer Pino Bahari, another Gerindra man contesting in Bali, tennis player Yayuk Basuki, a PAN contestant in Central Java, and swimmer Richard Sam Bera, making a bid in Jakarta for Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDI-P).

Sports in Indonesia gets low priority and often makes headlines for the wrong reasons, like mismanagement. All six of them aim to fix things as legislators in the hopes of more medal glory for Indonesia. It has 27 Olympic medals to show for its 250 million population,.

Mr Pino's story is a case in point. He had qualified for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics but was forced to drop out because poorly managed training aggravated an old back injury that nearly paralysed him.

Ms Emma, 52, who took part in the 1984 Olympics, still holds the Indonesian record for the 400m event set in the same year, while Mr Purnomo was the only Asian male to qualify for the 100m semi-finals in the 1984 Olympics.

Mr Subagya, 43, has won more than 30 international badminton titles with his doubles partner, including the Olympic gold in 1996. Ms Basuki, 43, represented Indonesia in the 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

Mr Sam Bera, 42, who took part in the 1988, 1996 and 2000 Olympics and has 11 SEA Games medals under his belt, told The Sunday Times: "There needs to be a massive change in the development of sports in Indonesia."

Added Mr Pino: "With sports, we can build national pride."


This article was published on April 6 in The Straits Times.

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