With average monthly temperatures of over twenty degrees Celsius year round, Indonesia is hardly a country many would associate with figure skating. Although the island nation in South Asia has yet to produce a competitor at any major senior ISU competition, its figure skating history is indeed an interesting one.
Skating was first introduced in Indonesia by Americans way back in August of 1955, when Holiday On Ice arrived to present a show in conjunction with the U.S. Department Of Commerce's Office Of International Trade Fair in Jakarta. Things didn't exactly run smoothly. An account from "The Milwaukee Journal, August 29, 1955 recorded, "The troupe arrived... with freezing unit, pipes, lights, costumes, a band and the skaters. For a time it seemed that some angry tropical god was determined to frustrate the plan to make a big cake of ice in Indonesia. A cable lowered a 20 ton freezing unit from a ship to a dock parted, and in the resulting crash the machinery was damaged. For a week technicians pawed over the complicated tangle of valves and pipes. Communist newspapers were scoffing and derogatory, while the pro-Western press was skeptical but hopeful. Then the technicians triumphed, and the much battered apparatus began to run. Twenty tons of crushed ice, the largest order in the history of the country, was dumped into the open air arena, where a foundation of pipes attached to a freezing unit had already been laid." Once the kinks got ironed out, the show ran for a month, drawing thousands of awestruck Indonesians who had never seen figure skating before in their lives. The tour returned in the sixties, performing as goodwill ambassadors for USIS: the United States Information Service.
In August of 1972, a ten thousand, seven hundred and sixty four square foot indoor rink opened in Jakarta. Built with Japanese technology and Indonesian capital, the Indonesian Skating Rink Center
cost contractors over two hundred million rupiahs - almost half a million dollars - to construct. Located on outskirts of Jakarta Senajan Sports Complex. the rink drew in large crowds and fostered a fascination with the sport. Tourists from neighbouring nations travelled to the facility to take to the ice but skating was regarded by many as a novelty, not a sport.
Indonesian senior men's champion Alberto Widjaja
In the nineties, the Sky Rink opened in Taman Anggrek Mall and became a mecca for South Asian skating enthusiasts. Soon other ice rinks followed: the BX Rink- Bintaro XChange in Banten and Garden Ice in Paris Van Java Mall in Bandung. The Federasi Ice Skating Indonesia joined the International Skating Union in 2013 and since then have fielded a handful of competitors on the ISU's Junior Grand Prix circuit.
Poster from the 2016 Indonesian National Championship
However, with only a few rinks and a lack of high level coaches, figure skating in Indonesia perhaps has a long way to go before it will compete with 'the big guns'. Fifty years ago, no one would have predicted Olympic and World Champions from China, Japan and Korea... so I wouldn't count out this new kid on the skating block one bit.
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