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Urban Chat: Citius, Altius, Fortius Prosperous? Hmm.

by September 3, 2016 General

The Rio Olympics were such a welcome distraction. I spent the mornings watching the tight swimming races, evenings with volleyball or weight-lifting, and toward the end going gaga over athletics and synchronized swimming. Within the limited free streaming services, I tried to catch as much as I could.

Whether or not Indonesian athletes were in play, there were just so many great background stories behind most athletes that it was hard not to support with awe. Beyond the insanity that was Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, there was French gymnast Said Ait Samir who snapped his left foot yet vowed to return to competitions in 2017, Syrian high-jumper Majd Eddin Ghazal who had braved civil wars and visa diffi culties during training, the tough love militancy of Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu, or the 41-year-old Uzbekistan gymnast Oksana Chusovitina who had won an Olympic medal before this year’s American wunderkind Simon Biles was even born.

My heart expectedly beat so much faster when, in the last hours before Independence Day ended, duo Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana “Butet” Natsir fought valiantly in the badminton court for our only gold medal, adding to the silver medals we had won in weightlifting earlier. I prayed, screamed then got teary-eyed, perhaps with the rest of Indonesia, when the fl ag was raised and the “Indonesia Raya” national anthem rang out in the stadium. What a glorious way to celebrate Independence Day.

A TV reporter immediately asked Butet, who was still in sweat and tears after her last professional game, about how she would utilize her bonus of Rp 5 billion (US$380,000). As The Independent reported that day, Indonesia gives out the second-highest cash bonus for gold medalists, below Singapore and way above Germany and the US. British athletes do not get any.

The question that quickly went abuzz in online chat groups was whether our medalists would really receive their promised bonuses. Some wondered if it might be wise to return to the New Order method of employing retired athletes in stateowned enterprises.

I honestly would rather the state gave them personal fi nance coaching alongside the promised fi nancial bonuses. Look, most athletes retire before the ripe age of 30, just when their non-athlete compatriots are starting to earn money above the minimum wage, with another 30 to 40 years of lifespan ahead of them.

Employment with state-owned enterprises might only work if the retired athletes are given education and training necessary for the job. Stateowned enterprises are no longer cash cows for the Indonesian government — they are expected to turn profi ts with qualifi ed teams at their helms. However patriotic the duty that has been performed by athletes as individuals, state-owned enterprises also have an equally patriotic duty as institutions to churn profits for the country.

Continuing in the fi eld? Not all former athletes, however great, are inspired to be coaches. To coach another athlete takes certain knowledge and skill sets, not to mention a whole different level of patience and determination. You can push yourself to the limit, but you cannot make another person walk toward the limit unless you know the psychology entailed.

Going into business? Well, former badminton queen Ivana Lie did open a sports clothing label for a while named Elvanna, from which as a kid I bought purple running shorts, but I don’t know if it had a good run. Business, even within sport, also takes different knowledge and skills.

Basic management of career and personal fi nance are what should be tutored seriously. Let them know there are choices beyond putting money into time deposits, the interest on which will always come up short in covering living costs as time progresses, or buying land in their parents’ hometowns, which may not be property with considerable growth in the long run.
Let them know that there is a possibility of switching careers smoothly. Richard Sambera received a scholarship that he took serious advantage of to study and started a new career in broadcasting. They can be TV commentators, sports writers, or personal trainers at the gyms mushrooming in Indonesian cities nowadays.

Even beyond all the options above, once they know how to manage their sports money for the long haul they can safely pick a job suffi ciently rewarding to get by on, without eating into the principal sum. It is sad to read this week about the 21-year-old former weightlifter in Semarang, Central Java, who had apparently won medals in the region, caught stealing motorcycles to make a living. More tragic is Ellyas Pical, Indonesia’s fi rst world boxing champion who served time in jail for drug dealing and now is reportedly employed, perhaps out of charity, as an offi ce gopher in the Indonesian Sports Committee (KONI). How Ellyas and his dentist wife could not manage the huge windfall from bonuses and sponsors is a mystery as much as proof of how personal fi – nance management is sorely needed for our athletes.

Citius, altius, fortius. Let us endeavor to make it, for athletes, more prosperous.

Lynda Ibrahim is a Jakarta-based writer with a penchant for purple, pussycats and pop culture.