London Olympian Eko Yuli Irawan tried to stay calm as he readied himself for his third attempt at 167 kilograms in the clean and jerk at the National Games (PON) on Wednesday.
He failed. Given the fact that his previous lift of 165 kilograms at the second attempt was insurmountable, he was still assured of gold.
Still battling a shin injury sustained at the 2011 SEA Games, his run to victory showed the lifter’s real prowess.
Eko brought home bronze for Indonesia at each of the last two Olympics and now plans to take a rest for three or four months to recover from the injury.
“This is my last event this year. I dedicate this medal to my parents, my wife and my child,” said 23-year-old Eko, after the medal ceremony at Ratu Mayang Garden Hotel in Pekanbaru, Riau.
Assured of the gold, Eko rushed back to the practice room where his mother, who had come to support him, waited.
“Thanks to the support of his coach and friends, Eko won a gold,” Eko’s mother Wastiah said.
She said initially she was not keen for the young Eko to become a weightlifter, but his “strong will” made her change her mind.
“He’s a quiet boy. But when he’s quiet, he’s actually thinking of how to get things done,” said the 41-year-old mother, who flew from Eko’s hometown of Lampung, to give him her support.
“I never imagined that he would be this successful when he told me he wanted to be a weightlifter. He was just a fifth grader,” recalled Wastiah.
“At that time, I even had to give him some money to buy practice kit because he kept saying he shouldn’t practice in school shorts.”
Wastiah said Eko earned money to support himself in weightlifting by herding the neighbors’ goats. “By the time he was in sixth grade, he no longer needed to herd goats because he was sent to Parung, Bogor [West Java], for training and for school,” she said.
On Wednesday, Eko lifted a total of 306kg (141kg in the snatch, 165kg in the clean and jerk) to beat Muhammad Hasbi of West Java into second place. The silver medalist lifted a total of 296kg while Rivaldi Achmad, also from of West Java, got the bronze with 266kg.
Eko looked ahead saying he expected another gold at next SEA Games.
Hasbi took part in the same class as Eko at the London Olympics but ended in a disappointing seventh place.
East Kalimantan weightlifting manager Lukman applauded Eko’s fight en route to victory.
“There was a moment when Eko was supposed to split for the jerk, but he didn’t. It was meant to stop him feeling the pain,” he said.
After receiving lavish cash bonuses for his London achievements, Eko is ready to rake in more, promised Rp 200 million (US$21,000) by the East Kalimantan governor for winning gold.
In the men’s 56kg, gold went to London Olympian Jadi Setiadi, also from Lampung, after lifting a total of 269kg (124kg in the snatch, 145kg in the clean and jerk), while Aceh’s Surahmat took silver with 247kg in total lift (106kg in the snatch, 141kg in the clean and jerk). Sumar Riyanto took bronze for Lampung.
Jadi could only finish fifth at the London Olympics.
In the women’s 48kg on Wednesday, Sri Wahyuni from West Java, Lisa Setiawati from East Kalimantan and Siti Napisah from Central Java earned gold, silver and bronze, respectively.
Another Lampung athlete, Citra Febrianti, who finished fourth at the London Olympics was assured of gold in the women’s 53kg with a total lift of 196kg — 25kg ahead of silver medalist Dewi Safitri of West Java, while Central Java’s Tanti Pratiwi finished third.
Weightlifting continues until Friday, with a total of 15 golds for 88 athletes to grab.