Thursday, January 10, 2008

Small lessons to learn from the Games winners

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Damar Harsanto and Matheos Viktor Messakh, The Jakarta Post, Nakhon Ratchasima

Greatness happens when a person or a group of people is willing to walk that extra mile.

For Indonesia's pesilat, who romped five gold, three silver and four bronze medals at the 24th Southeast Asian Games, the extra mile meant going back to basics.

"We flew to the Shanghai University of Sports Science where Olympic 110-meter hurdles gold medalist Liu Xiang and Houston Rockets center Yao Ming were trained, to gain first-hand experience: Pursue knowledge as best you can, even if you have to go all the way to China," Indonesia's pencak silat head coach Indro Catur Haryono told The Jakarta Post recently.

"We learned a lot there, including discipline in training, the importance of sports research and treating sport as a profession as well as experienced world-class training standards," he said.

After three months of training, the 14-strong pesilat squad flew directly to Thailand, a week before the start of their tanding (competition). They rented a modest apartment near the pencak silat competition venue, which was more than 40 kilometers away from the athletes' village. They even hired a cook to meet their needs for halal food, as most of them are Muslims.

With such meticulous preparation, Indonesia's pesilat prepared themselves well -- they had done their homework and were ready to roll and make history.

Indonesia regained its supremacy in the sport by winning five of the 14 gold medals on offer to top the medal tally and become the overall champion of the traditional martial art.

In the track and field, the Indonesian team -- which claimed seven gold, seven silver and five bronze medals -- also went the extra mile.

Team manager Sumartoyo Martodihardjo said the team realized its "traditional" physical training was substandard, with outdated techniques.

Then along came physical trainer Robert John Ballard of Australia, who started training the team in April.

"He (Ballard) told us certain exercises had to be done to train certain muscles and joints for optimum performance. We worked on our weaknesses and began to improve our training standards," he told the Post recently.

Sprinter John Herman Muray said the changes in physical exercise really helped him improve his performance.

"I think our previous (physical) exercise was a bit below international standards. As an athlete, I felt I could not perform to my best ability. But, now I am improving my records day by day," said the men's 200m bronze medalist.

More importantly, he added, Ballard created a favorable atmosphere and initiated two-way communication between coaches and athletes, which helped make progress possible.

Separately, Ballard said Indonesia had a lot of young potential track and field athletes that could be groomed for success.

"They are out there. It's just a matter of how we find them (young athletes) and train them properly to turn them into world-class athletes," he told the Post.

"I believe in the future Indonesian athletes could become powerhouses not only in the Southeast Asia region, but also internationally," he said.

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