Friday, December 07, 2007
Damar Harsanto and Matheos Viktor Messakh, The Jakarta Post, Nakhon Ratchasima
The Southeast Asian Games cauldron was lit Thursday at the official opening of the biennial event, but the red-and-white squad paraded goldless at His Majesty the King of Thailand's 80th Birthday Anniversary stadium.
Once a dominating country in the regional event, Indonesia is losing its grip in medal collection and has allowed other countries -- especially arch-rival Thailand -- to move up in their standing.
With the shooting now complete and other events have begun, Indonesia remains seventh on the tally with one silver and five bronze medals.
The medals were not enough to raise Indonesia's position above seventh place -- just above minnow countries Laos, Timor Leste, Cambodia and Brunei Darussalam.
The host Thailand, targeting 150 gold as a birthday present for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, tops the standing with 21 gold, followed by Singapore with 10 and Vietnam with seven gold medals.
Indonesia earned its first silver thanks to cycling Popo Ario Sejati, who pedaled in the men's mountain bike downhill race. He came second after eventual winner Joey Barba of the Philippines.
Later in the day, Indonesia's six-strong team playing in Sepaktakraw hoop event at The Mall's hall scored a total 650 points to win bronze.
First and second place went to host Thailand and Myanmar.
The newly introduced event, known also hoop takraw, is a variation of sepaktakraw where players have to show their creativity and dexterity in making maneuvers, like cross-legged jump kicks and other artistic kicks, before scoring a goal in a basket-shaped net erected 4.5 meters above the ground.
The new event sparked a controversy Thursday when Malaysia pulled out of the competition because it was upset at the use of a rubber coated ball rather than the traditional rattan.
"Malaysia's withdrawal was deeply regrettable," president of the Asian Sepaktakraw Federation, Abdel Halim Bin Kader, said as quoted by AP.
"I feel very sad indeed because the spirit of the games, which is friendship and unity, is most important among the sport community."
Bin Kader said Malaysia had been given 220 of the new balls for practice and had used the new balls in competition at the First ASEAN Sepak Takraw Championship in June.
SEA Games officials will decide if Malaysia should be penalized for its withdrawal.
Friday will feature 27 gold medals at stake in track and field, swimming, billiards, cycling, equestrian, gymnastics, wrestling, wushu and petanque events.