ARIES SUSANTI RAHAYU THE INDONESIAN SPIDERWOMAN

Nicknamed the ‘Indonesian Spiderwoman’, Aries made media headlines in May when she won a gold medal in the women’s speed category of the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) World Cup, held in Chongqing, China. Taking just 7.51 seconds to complete her climb, Aries beat the runner-up, Russian Elena Timofeeva, by just over a second.

Understandably, the 23-year-old from Central Java can’t quite believe she has won the World Cup series for the first time. “There are no words that can describe how I really feel. I am so blessed,” she said, adding that she couldn’t have done it without the support of the Indonesian team.

Aries’ victory comes as sport climbing is gaining an increasingly high international profile – it has been officially confirmed as an additional sport for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – which has validated her decision to switch from athletics. “When I was in elementary school, I participated in athletics competitions, but I never won the championship at province level, so I changed to climbing when I was in junior high school,” she explained. She credits her school physical education teacher for encouraging her to make the switch.

Since she began competitive climbing in 2007, Aries has dedicated herself to her new passion. She started to participate in climbing championships in 2008 and hasn’t stopped since, winning numerous bronze, silver and gold medals as an individual competitor and in relays at the national, Asian and world series levels.

The student of Muhammadiyah University Semarang says that every competition has been memorable, but the most remarkable was when she and the rest of the Indonesian climbing team could proudly wave the Indonesian flag in Chongqing.
As an athlete, Aries accepts she can’t be on top all the time: a rex oranfeweek after winning gold at Chongqing, she had a foot slip while competing in the next IFSC Climbing World Cup contest in the Chinese city of Tai’an and had to be content with bronze.

Despite feeling disappointed, her spirits remain high and she is committed to giving her best in every performance. “Like my idols Etty Hendrawati (former world climbing champion) and Aspar Jaelolo (fellow climbing athlete), I have a ‘never give up’ attitude,” she said.

Colours spoke to Aries as she was preparing for her next big competition, the 2018 Asian Games, held in Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2. She said she had been practising all the training drills her coaches had given her and had been sure not to forget to pray. Another pre-competition ritual is talking to her parents. “I always take time before the game to speak to my parents and ask for their blessing so I can give the best in the game,” she revealed.

The lot of an athlete is, of course, not easy, given the constant training and pressure to perform. However, Aries pointed out that she is doing something she really loves and, as well as winning medals, she has found new friends through climbing.
She wants to give more to Indonesia by continuing to win international championships, and, when she can’t compete any more, to become a coach. “I want to train the next generation, so they can at least have the same experience of competing at an international level,” she said. She urges new climbers to be tenacious. “If you fail, don’t give up: keep going and give your best, pray a lot, and your glorious moment will come one day.”

Aries ended our interview by recalling a special moment with Garuda Indonesia. When flying home from competing in the World Cup in China, flight attendants presented her and her fellow team members with gifts in recognition of their achievements – a perfect finale to an intense period of competition. No doubt we will be hearing much more about this determined young sportswoman as she continues her upward climb.

From Colours SEPTEMBER 2018