For Indonesia, its success to become the overall champion of the 26th SEA Games marks as a point to rise then put more attention to local sport. For me, that means a simple thing. The biennial tournament leads me to understand the first truly love I don’t want to deny: sport.
I want to become a journalist thanks partly to sport. Long before I know Kompas, Tempo, or let alone The Jakarta Post, I love reading Bola and Raket tabloids. My father is the one who introduces me to sport. And the athlete he recommends me to follow is Susi Susanti. I do not watch her performance when she grabs the first gold medal for Indonesia during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. But as a very little kid, I do believe on what my father says. Since then, I come to understand how great she is. Firstly, it is Susi Susanti then overall badminton athletes. In 1990s, Indonesia is the king of the sporting event.
One of the most memorable tournament is when Indonesia snatches the Thomas and Uber Cups in 1996. And I watch it live on TV. I am so amazed with them. That is the time I have new idols : Ricky Subagja and Rexy Mainaki. They are acrobatic shuttlers. Through badminton, I know how thrilled it is when watching important games. Badminton always makes me feel like that. When the R duo play at the final game of men’s double event in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, I turn off the TV. I just can’t watch them cornered by Malaysian shuttlers in the final match. They win the gold medal by the way.
The victory affects me so much. I persuade my parents to buy me a racket. I ask for them to buy me the Raket tabloid. My father then helps me to understand the badminton game and rule. He teaches me what differs singles and doubles events. He draws me a picture of badminton hall. I want to become a badminton player!
I practice playing the game with my neighbors. Any places will do. Backyard, empty hall. Wooden-made racket or the real racket. New shuttlecocks. Half or completely broken shuttlecocks. Anything. The sporting event brings so much fun.
When I enter junior high school, the dream of being an athlete is crushed because I have to study a lot. Almost no time for playing badminton. I also forget about the dream. I am too short, I guess. This is in line with gloomy badminton achievement in the country. After 2000, badminton continues to be sluggish. But still I follow some of the news. I get a new idol, too : Hendrawan. During senior high school days, I have new sport love: football with Juventus and Alessandro Del Piero. Italy is my favorite team, and is still. I am so crazy about soccer at that time. I can watch games live at 1 or 2 a.m. Also, I almost never miss Lega Calcio, especially when Juventus plays. Thanks to Bola, I love reading sport news. Other sport like basket ball, Formula 1, MotoGP, begin to be familiar in my ears. Sport is in my blood!
But things get far away when I enter college. The reason is very simple: I don’t have any televisions at the boarding room. I can go home every Saturday or Sunday but I feel so drowsy when it comes to football games. Sleeping is above all else. So I rarely watch sport games. Also, I switch my focus on politic and social readings. I prefer reading newspaper to sport magazines. Oh, how people change!
When I work as a journalist, I never really think of covering sport events. I think I love all fields (almost) thus I can enjoy everything. At The Jakarta Post, what does not trigger me to keen on covering sport news is that the newspaper does not include it as a “high-class” desk, a must-to-do desk kinda of thing. So, I just follow what others say. I don’t put sport desk into my dream one. But the moment arrives. I am moved to sport desk after I complete cover legal and politic news. To tell you honestly, I do not enthusiastic, at first. I feel like I am sent to a neverland, all alone, without any friends. Yes, I am the sole reporter at that time. Besides, I still love legal affairs.
But, duty must be done. I must not busy listening to what other people say and start enjoy everything. First tournament: PROLIGA volley ball tournament. Oh my God! Back in 2002, I could just watch the tournament. Being wowed by their smashes and spikes. I have an idol. Her name is Alicia Davidge, an Australian. She is so cheerful as seen in the TV. She does not play when I cover the annual championship but surely one by one I can experience what I could only watch in the TV. Volley ball is so popular in my village. Back in old days, men and women practice volley ball then compete in inter village competition. So funny! I join once but I can’t stand with the ball. It’s so heavy in my hands.
My first experience to have watched Proliga volley ball gradually makes me so happy to be at the new desk. Also, I love writing sport stories, though I can say that is not easy. It takes a lot of efforts to be able to write a good piece of sport story because I have to visualize what I see in the fields, humanize all movements, not to mention expressions. But once I absorb games, everything just comes in handy. Flowing like a river. Never want to stop.
Volley ball then basket ball until I experience one thing I really want to do: covering badminton news. First venue, the place I never thought I could come to : Istora Senayan. The tournament I really wanted to enjoy: the 2008 Thomas and Uber Cups. Oh my… Everything always happens for a reason. I don’t become an athlete but I can still meet my heroes and heroines from the past by being a journalist. I have never thought of that!
I can only gaze at the indoor stadium, the green carpet, the clean venue. After smiling to all of those accessories, it’s time to interview. My first shuttler victim is Maria Kristin. She’s a very friendly person. That is my first experience of interviewing directly to badminton shuttlers. Amazing outcome! I take her picture, too.
Then I interview Christian Hadinata, former world’s best men’s doubles and now Indonesia’s team manager. Alan Budikusuma, Susi’s husband, still handsome although he is a bit fat. He is very welcome person, smiles a lot. My first a bit private interview is with Ivana Lie. She is a nice person, too. She even greets me before entering the stadium one day after the interview. Oh my!
And one day I finally meet her: Susi Susanti. I do not dare to interview her. I am so nervous. I just join senior fellow journalists and nod everytime she acts the same thing. Susi is a very charming person. She answers all questions. Like her husband, she loves smiling and very warm. So, that’s what a truly winner behave!
My excitement does not stop there. Here comes the much-awaited moment: meeting with Rexy Mainaki! Of all Indonesia’s badminton players, he is my most favorite. Even if he coaches old time rival Malaysia, I do not really care with that. I still admire his skills. This time is worse. My heart pounds so hard and I really do not have any guts to even speak to him. I simply nod and listen to his conversation with a group of journalists and record them all. Rexy is amazing person, too. He even directs the conversation, making everything looks so relaxed. He smiles at me. Oh I feel like dead already! He also gives me his phone number while staying in Jakarta during the tournament. With an effort, I am succesful to persuade my editor to allow me write about him and his experience to coach badminton athletes in the U.K and Malaysia. My angle is how he perceives anti-nationalism as a consequence of his professional career. I still keep the copy of the story. It’s one of the best stories I have ever made so far.
Last piece of pleasure during the two-month of sport coverage comes from athletic field. Wow! Never believe I come to Madya stadium and watch athletic events live during Asian Junior Athletic Championship. It’s so amazing to see those runners clock that fast or jumpers pass a very high pole, even by carrying a stick! Since then, I really love athletic. Though not as much as badminton. Oh, I forget to mention I also cover Indonesia Open badminton super series.
Those last only for two months but are really full of joy. Thank you so much God for such a rare opportunity!