Jakarta. Indonesia won two bronze medals in bridge at the Asian Games in Jakarta on Sunday (26/08).
The country's richest man, Michael Bambang Hartono, helped the country reach the semifinal by playing in the supermixed team qualifying round on Saturday.
"Journalists have been pressuring me almost daily to field Mr. Bambang Hartono, so I decided to let him play on Saturday while I rested our main pair, Franky Karwur and Jemmy Bojoh," Indonesian team manager Ekawahyu Kasih said after the team lost to China in the semifinals.
Indonesia performed well against China in both the mixed and supermixed events in the qualifying rounds between Tuesday and Friday last week, but Ekawahyu admitted that he made a mistake by resting his main players.
"In the mixed team rounds on Saturday, I rested our best player, Taufik Asbi, because he asked me for some time off to relax, and I granted it," the team manager said.
Ekawahyu, who also chairs the Indonesian Bridge Association (Gabsi), said the team is still sticking to its target to win at least two gold medals at this year's Asian Games, which saw the sport being introduced for the first time.
"Though we lost in the first three events, we're not losing sight of our initial target to win two gold medals," he said.
There are six gold medals at stake in bridge at this year's Asian Games and Indonesia will still participate in three more competitions.
Bridge was included in the Asian Games for the first time this year, as the host nation has traditionally been a top performer in the sport in Southeast Asia.
Ekawahyu said Indonesia is second only to China in the sport in Asia, with the two countries' players having competed in several world championships prior to the 2018 Asian Games.
Bridge was also included in the Southeast Asian Games in 2011, when Indonesia last hosted the event. The country dominated the sport at the time, winning four of the nine gold medals at stake.
Match officials did not allow spectators and journalists to directly watch the competition at Jakarta International Expo in Kemayoran over concerns that it may disrupt the players' concentration.
Instead, they watched the matches on large television screens that only showed the card movements by players, like a computer game such as Solitaire.
"It's like playing cangkulan," an Indonesian team official said, referring to a traditional card game popular in Indonesia.
Bridge is often described as "athletics of the mind," where physical superiority is irrelevant.
Many of the players, both men and women, competing in bridge at this year's Asian Games are of advanced age, with the average age of the Indonesian super-mixed team being 53.
The Indonesian supermixed team consists of six players, with Bambang Hartono, 78, and Rury Andhani, 34, being the oldest. The average age of the six-member Indonesian mixed team is 48.
The 85-year-old Kong Te Yang, who represents the Philippines in bridge, is the oldest athlete competing at this year's Asian Games.
"We can hardly be compared to Olympians, whose motto is 'faster, higher and stronger,'" Yang said.
"We have to look beyond the limits of our physical strengths.
"Bridge is actually very mathematical ... You must know the probability, you must know psychology, and you must have an open mind at all times."
Additional reporting by Reuters