Richard Sam Bera
|Full name||Richard Sam Bera|
|Born||19 December 1971|
|Height||1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)|
|Weight||75 kg (165 lb)|
|College team||Arizona State University (USA)|
|Coach||Michael Chasson (USA) & Ernest Maglischo (USA)|
Richard Sam Bera (born 19 December 1971) is a former Indonesian swimmer, who specialized in sprint and middle-distance freestyle events. He is a three-time Olympian (1988, 1996, and 2000), a bronze medalist at the Asian Games (1990), and a twenty-three times SEA Games gold-medalist (individuals and relays) since his debut in 1987. He is regarded as Indonesia's most successful swimmer in the sporting history. Up until 2015, Bera held several Indonesian and Southeast Asian Games records in sprint freestyle events from the Southeast Asian Games.
Bera made his official debut, as Indonesia's youngest swimmer (aged 16), at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. He failed to reach the top 16 final in any of his individual events, finishing forty-first in the newly introduced 50 m freestyle (24.67), forty-seventh in the 100 m freestyle (53.59), forty-eighth in the 200 m freestyle (1:57.60), forty-third in the 400 m freestyle (4:08.70), and thirty-seventh in the 200 m individual medley (2:13.90).
Bera's name reached towards an early sport popularity when, as a 17 year-old, he earned his first ever gold medal in the 100 m freestyle (52.19) and bronze in the newly introduced 50 m freestyle at the 1989 Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia beating the then current champion of the distance, the great Ang Peng Siong of Singapore.
His college swimming career started off in Northern California when he attended Foothill College till 1993. Bera was California Community College Champion in 50, 100, and 200 yd freestyle for two years. And in 1993, he set a new California and US National Junior College record in 100 yd freestyle with the time of 44.73. After his successful campaign in California, Bera accepted an athletic scholarship to attend the Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, where he swam for the Arizona State Sun Devils swimming and diving team under head coach Ernest Maglischo first and then Michael Chasson. While swimming for the Sun Devils, he received four All-American honors in the 100-yard freestyle, and all freestyle relays (200, 400, and 800). Bera was a regular finalist in 100 and 200 yards freestyle at Pac-10 Championships during his NCAA Division I career. And he capped it off in his final season with automatic qualifying time in 100 yd free for 1995 NCAA Championships. He was also a member of Sun Devils' 400 yd Medley Relay team that finished top 6 that year. After his senior season, Bera turned himself into a professional swimmer and then made a strong comeback for the Indonesian swimming team. At the 1995 Southeast Asian Games in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Bera powered past the entire swimming field to strike a sprint freestyle double (both 50 and 100 m). Up until 2017, Bera remains the only Indonesian athlete in any sports who has ever earned the All-American Division 1 accolade.
After an eight-year absence since his first Olympic in 1988 Seoul Olympics as a 16-year-old, Bera qualified for his second Indonesian team at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Although he was able to improve his standards from past tournaments, Bera still placed in a "middle-of-the-pack" in any of his individual events, finishing forty-fourth in the 50 m freestyle (23.80), and thirty-fourth in the 100 m freestyle (51.25).
When his country Indonesia hosted the 1997 Southeast Asian Games in Jakarta, Bera was delighted and overwhelmed by the home crowd, as he edged out Filipino favourite Raymond Papa to defend his titles in both the 50 and 100 m freestyle. A feat that he repeated again at 1999 Southeast Asian Games in Brunei Darusallam and 2001 Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Shortly after the 1997 Games, Bera announced his retirement to concentrate on his job as an assistant coach for the Arizona State Sun Devils. On that same year, he graduated from the University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.
But two years later, in 1999, Bera came home to Indonesia and made a decision to come out of retirement, and set up an official return to the Indonesian swimming team. At the Southeast Asian Games, he defended his 100 m freestyle title for the third straight time in a Games record-breaking time of 51.03, slashing 0.28 seconds off the mark set by his teammate Wisnu Wardhana in 1993. He also defended his 50 m freestyle crown when he swam 23.49, more than two-tenths of a second (0.20) outside his own 10-year-old record.
At the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Bera competed again in a sprint freestyle double since his remarkable comeback from Atlanta. After defending third straight titles from the SEA Games, his entry times of 23.49 (50 m freestyle) and 51.03 (100 m freestyle) were accredited under a FINA B-standard. In the 100 m freestyle, Bera placed thirty-seventh on the morning prelims. Swimming in heat six, he edged out Israel's Yoav Bruck to take a sixth spot by exactly a tenth of a second (0.10) in 51.52. Two days later, in the 50 m freestyle, Bera challenged seven other swimmers in heat five, including Bahamas' Allan Murray, top 16 finalist in Atlanta four years earlier. He came up short in third place and forty-second overall at 23.54, just a small fraction off his entry time.
At the 2001 Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Bera matched his own record of 51.03 to claim a 100 m freestyle title for the fourth straight time, edging out host nation's Allen Ong by 0.28 of a second.
Twelve years after winning a bronze medal, Bera competed for the second time, as a strong 31-year-old veteran, at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea. He missed the podium twice in any of his swimming events, finishing fourth in the 50 m freestyle (23.49), and fifth in the 100 m freestyle (51.41).
At the 2003 Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, Bera only won a bronze medal in the 50 m freestyle at 23.73, finishing behind surprising Thai teenager Arwut Chinnapasaen and his Malaysian nemesis Allen Ong by four-tenths of a second (0.40).
Eighteen years since his debut, Bera made his final appearance as individual swimmer at the 2005 Southeast Asian Games in Manila. Surprisingly, even in the age of 34, he managed to win a total of five swimming medals: two golds in the 100 m freestyle (51.94) and in the 4 x 100 m medley relay (3:51.51), two silvers each in the 50 m freestyle (23.36) and in the 4 × 100 m freestyle relay (3:29.46), and a bronze in the 4 x 200 freestyle relay (7:43.56).
Shortly after the Games, Bera announced his second, yet official retirement from swimming, ending a career with three Olympic appearances, and more than forty SEA Games medals to his collection. And up until 2014 Asian Games, Bera and fellow countrymen breast-stroker Wirmandi Sugriat, remain the last Indonesian swimmers who medaled at Asian Games.
Life after swimming
Since 2000, Bera has been working as a sports broadcaster for MetroTV on the western outskirts of Jakarta. After that, he was placed as editor-in-chief for FHM and Men's Fitness Indonesia Magazines. Following his retirement from swimming, Bera still remained strong and faithful to his sport regime. He became one of the founders of National Champions Millennium Aquatics Club, and later competed in both Olympic and sprint-distance triathlons across Indonesia, specifically in Bali. Bera was unofficially crowned as the father of modern triathlon in Indonesia, when he started to spread the "triathlon virus" in 2009. He was training to keep himself healthy by doing cycling and running along with swimming. At the time, barely anyone in Indonesia was aware about the sport of triathlon.
Bera also attended both as a spectator and a observer at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Watching the athlete procession from the stands during the closing ceremony, he reminisced an Olympic moment from his Twitter: "Seeing all those athletes down there, abit emotional for me. I used to be down there".
In 2015, Bera elected President of Indonesia Olympians Association and served until 2018. From 2015 to 2017, he was also part of the Board of Commissioner of Ministry of Youth and Sports' High Performance Program called PRIMA. He is now married and living with his family in Jakarta.
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