Indonesia’s Olympic weightlifting team may not have brought home gold at Rio, but the country’s government is sending a clear message that they value strength sports. The two weightlifters who won silver, Eko Yuli Irawan (62kg class) and Sri Wahyuni Agustiani (48kg class), were just awarded free houses by the Indonesian Weightlifting Federation, the sport’s national governing body.
The award was also bestowed upon Sri Hartati, a powerlifter who has won five World Championship gold medals and benched 166kg (365lb) in the 57kg class last November.
“This is a sign of support for our high-achieving athletes,” said Indonesian Weightlifting Federation chairman Rosan Roeslani. “We hope this token of appreciation can inspire other weightlifters to achieve maximum results at two major upcoming events, the 2018 Asian Games and 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”
The world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, Indonesia’s most popular sport is badminton – they’ve won gold medals at every Olympics since it was introduced in 1992, and they’ve won the Thomas Cup, the world team championship of men’s badminton, thirteen of the twenty-six times it’s been held. The country is also a major player in the unbelievably cool, Southeast Asian sport of sepak takraw, also known as kick volleyball.
But of the thirty Olympic medals Indonesia has won, ten have been in weightlifting, their most successful event after badminton. After the country’s podium finishes in Rio, weightlifting has received a much needed publicity boost and the government appears to be interested in investing more into the sport.
While coaches have been experiencing difficulty convincing young lifters to move from their hometowns to train in the capital of Jakarta (most of the country’s weightlifters have come from the forested area of Lampung, over two hundred miles away), the rewards for young athletes are enticing: Indonesian medalists receive cash bonuses and lifetime pensions from their government.
The Indonesian Weightlifting Federation hopes to win twenty medals at the next Asian Games in 2018, fives times more than their last showing. Here’s hoping they perform at their best and help to lift the sport’s profile in the region.
Featured image via the International Weightlifting Federation.