Thursday, December 13, 2007
Matheos Viktor Messakh, The Jakarta Post, Nakhon Ratchasima
Evergreen Rony Syaifullah brought down the curtain on his career as a pesilat in style with a gold medal at his sixth SEA Games.
The 31-year-old fighter thumped The Hoang Vu of Vietnam in the final contest of the men's under-80 kilogram, winning an absolute 5-0.
Cheered on by a crowd of national team athletes including sprinter Suryo Agung Wibowo, who clinched a double victory in the men's 100 and 200 meter sprint, Rony delivered a solid performance in his specialty.
He added the gold to a personal collection that includes two golds from the 1997 Jakarta SEA Games and one from the 2005 Philippines Games, plus the double world champion title in 1997 and 2000.
"I've spent most of my life (devoted to) pencak silat. It's just too much," said Rony, who went on leave from his position as a sports science lecturer at the Sebelas Maret University in Surakarta, Central Java, to join the national training camp early this year.
"Now it's time for me to award myself. If I get the cash bonus, I'll keep it for my wedding party," he smiled.
"I plan to tie the knot next year. (The wedding) has been postponed several times because of my tight schedule in silat competition," he added.
Rony said he was not completely content with his feats at the SEA Games.
"Competing at higher multi-sport events, like the Asian Games or the Olympic Games, is every athlete's dream. I am no exception. But currently Pencak silat is still an exhibition game at the Asian Games and has yet to be recognized at the Olympics," he said.
Rony said his love of the sport was so big that he would not be able to fully retire from the country's traditional martial arts competition.
"I will focus on becoming a coach," said Rony, who is now also pursuing his master's degree in sports science at Jakarta State University.
"Hopefully, our young pesilats will be able to dominate the sport at a higher level of competition, like the Asian Games or the Olympics, in the future," he said.