“Sport Changes Lives”

Projects: IPC Powerlifting

BSF has a strong Powerlifting program,2 athletes winning medals at 2014 Asian ParaGames

, 31, does not remember ever walking. Like many Indonesians, she was struck down with polio at 4 years old and housebound until an operation allowed her mobility on crutches.

A little more than a decade later, Nengah is now a champion powerlifter with her sights on a win in the Asian Para Games in South Korea in October this year.

Nengah is not alone in her goals. Her training partner, coincidentally also named , is ranked third in the world for powerlifting in her class. 

Called Widi for short, the petite woman can lift three times her own body weight, and took third in the World para-powerlifting games in Dubai earlier this year, and fifth overall in the London Paralympics in 2012. She is currently aiming for at least silver in Korea and is already prepping for the Brazil Paralympics in 2016. 

Widi is 21 and, like Nengah, her life was radically altered at 3 years of age when she was crippled by polio.

These young women — both members of the Bali Sports Foundation (BSF) that is vigorous in training, supporting and coaching the disabled in various sports — are unstoppable. Both have been blighted by fate, but have never given up. They have taken adversity and turned it on its head.

“Maybe without polio I would never have become a world champion, would never have been to Dubai, been planning for Korea or competed at the Paralympics in London. Maybe without polio I would have just been at home. London, by the way, is really nice,” says Widi, who shares a boarding house with her friend and training partner, Nengah.

The focus needed to compete at the national and international level is well beyond most of us; becoming a world champion usually entails having a large backup team and strong government funding. For Widi and Nengah, they have each other and the BSF to keep them on track and that’s about it. 

[Dynamic duo: Champion powerlifters (Widi, left) and training buddy also named prepare for the Asian Para Games in Korea later this year.]

Dynamic duo: Champion powerlifters Nengah Widiasih (Widi, left) and training buddy also named Nengah Widiasih prepare for the Asian Para Games in Korea later this year.
Founder of BSF and former Winter Olympics speed skier Rodney Holt says that Widi was pretty much on her own competing at the London Paralympics and the Dubai world championships; funding for her coach to accompany her was not forthcoming from government sporting agencies.

“Here at BSF’s training hall, Widi is lifting 110 kilograms — she weighs just 35 kilograms. But in Dubai, she lifted 93, because her coach was not with her. Powerlifting is much about strategy and that comes from your coach. For Korea, we have managed to pull together sponsorship for the girls’ coach, Pak Ketut Misa Sarinama, to join them for the games,” says Rodney. He adds that BSF’s sponsor, multinational Singapore-based firm KTP Exports, is playing a vital role in helping these young powerlifters achieve their goals and giving other young BSF athletes the opportunity to train and compete.

While Widi and Nengah depend heavily on BSF for training, coaching and the foundation’s sports hall — a multi-disciplinary sports zone that has applied innovation to supply sporting equipment without vast sums of money — it is the girls’ ability to dream and make those dreams real through sheer hard work, year in and year out, that is taking them both to the top in para-powerlifting.

“I really hope to win in Korea. I am trying hard to lift more weight. We are training together four times a week for two hours each session. I usually lift 90 kilograms, but for Korea I want to lift more than 100 kilograms,” says the shy and gentle national champion Nengah, who is also planning to marry in the near future. Dreaming of a bright future and her good friendship with Widi keeps Nengah on the training track she says.

Their friendship and joint goals also help the unstoppable Widi. “Having a friend as a trainer lifts up my spirit. We live together, eat together, watch television together and train together. Because of our sport we are always together and that helps us focus,” says Widi. “My goal is to win the Paralympics in Brazil in 2016. I’ll be 23 years old then.”

The tenacity and self-confidence of these young women invoke the little red caboose in the children’s story of the same name. “You have to keep going, feel sure, believe we can be the best; others say maybe they can be the best, we say we definitely can be the best!” say these extraordinary women in unison, who come October may well be the international faces of what makes true champions.

Trisha Sertori - Jakarta Post - May 2014