May 4, 2023
JAKARTA – Just days before the 2023 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Cambodia set to officially kick off on Friday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo met with the Indonesian delegates at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on Tuesday, setting a target for Indonesia to finish higher than third at the event.
“In the [2021 SEA Games] in Vietnam, we finished third with a tally of 69 gold medals,” Jokowi said on Tuesday. “For this year, we have to do better. I want us to win more than 69 [gold medals] and rank higher than third, either first or second.”
Newly appointed Youth and Sports Minister Dito Ariotedjo who accompanied the President said originally, the ministry had set a target of winning 60 gold medals and placing third. “But the ‘commander’ has given the order, so we as ‘soldiers’ will of course strive to achieve that goal,” Dito said on Tuesday.
The minister further explained that 599 Indonesian athletes would compete in 31 out of 36 sports at the biennial event. Among those 31 sports will be table tennis, which Indonesia had been forced to miss in the two previous editions over continuing internal power struggle within the Indonesian Table Tennis Association (PTMSI).
While Indonesia’s presence in table tennis was initially in jeopardy, Dito confirmed the two competing camps within PTMSI have agreed to put aside their differences, paving the way for Indonesia’s return for the 32nd SEA Games. “All the paperwork is in order; we’re only waiting for confirmation from Cambodia,”’ Dito said, as reported by Tempo.co.
As is the case with the 2021 SEA Games in Vietnam, the majority of this year’s Indonesian delegates are classified as junior athletes, with Dito explaining around 70 percent were still in school or in college.
Thanks to some surprising performances, including victory over regional powerhouse Philippines in the men’s basketball event, Indonesia’s third place finish in the 31st edition marked a return to form. While the country used to be the dominant force throughout the 80s and the 90s, Indonesia has only ranked first once in the 21st century, back when the country hosted the event in 2011.
Since then, Indonesia has regularly placed just below the top three, before finally climbing to third during the 2021 SEA Games.
While most of the Indonesian delegates are set to make the trip to Cambodia on Thursday with the opening ceremony scheduled for Friday, several sports have already started last week. The first of the cricket and soccer events started on Friday, with the entire program set to conclude by the closing ceremony on May 17.
The 2023 edition will be the first time Cambodia hosted the regional sporting event with most matches being held in the capital Phnom Penh.