Watching 'Ave' fly - online

Photos and text by Toto Santiko Budi

Watching 'Ave' fly - online

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed daily life as we know it for billions of people, and in Indonesia it is no exception. Phrases such as “work from home” and “school from home,” once unheard of, are commonplace. But for Averyl Baline Mattahati, “train from home” is very much a part of her vocabulary. The 13-year-old artistic gymnastics champion has had to train five days a week in the living room of her parents’ house, as her club in the West Java city of Tangerang, just outside the capital Jakarta, closed in March due to health restrictions because of the coronavirus. This in addition to her grade 4 online schoolwork and household chores.

Mattahati, better known as “Ave,” is now a Level-6 athlete ranking under the Olympics’ Women’s Artistic Gymnastics system. Physical fitness and technical perfection are mandatory to succeed, as despite her age she is entering the prime of what is a short career for female gymnasts.

Her warm-up, conditioning, techniques and movements are all done under the watchful eye of her coaches, who use computers, smartphones and iPads to train and monitor their athletes on Zoom. Reprimands are shouted through the screen for unsatisfactory work. Ave says she would rather practice at the club than at home, so she can be around her fellow athletes and have access to all the gym’s training equipment. The floors at her parent’s house are ceramic tile, and the landings from jumps are hard as she trains as best she can. The only reprieve Ave got was recently being allowed to train twice a week at her club and three times at home.

But this young lady knows about overcoming adversity. She won a Southeast Asia regional club competition in Singapore, as well as multiple medals in Indonesian competitions. Covid-19 has severely disrupted Ave’s world – including a championship meet in Bangkok in March that was abruptly cancelled. But she keeps her spirit up and keeps practicing, hoping beyond hope that she can properly train and compete again.

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Toto Santiko Budi is a Jakarta-based photojournalist.

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