PETALING JAYA: It has been 25 years since Hidayat Hamidon stood proudly on the winners’ podium at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, wearing the gold medal he won for the country in weightlifting.
He now has high hopes that his son, Erry Hidayat, will repeat that feat at the next edition of the games in 2026. In Birmingham, UK, last year, Erry had to settle for silver after falling ill in the lead up to the competition.
Born in Medan, Indonesia, in 1975, Hidayat moved to Malaysia in his early teens.
He quickly showed potential in the sport, making a name for himself at the SEA Games and World Championships, as well as in the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada.
However, it was his inclusion in the Jaya ‘98 project – a centralised training programme held for elite Malaysian athletes – that saw Hidayat begin to excel.
He would lift 167kg in the 69kg “clean-and-jerk” category on route to winning gold at the games, memorably yelling “ayah” (father) just moments before the lift.
“I came to Malaysia because of my father, as it was his great hope for the family. He also wanted me to carry on his passion for weightlifting, excel in the sport and travel the world,” said Hidayat.
“That’s why whenever I travel on a plane or train overseas, I think of my father,” he added.
Erry embodies the same determination, and worked hard to win gold in 2022, only to contract dengue fever just three weeks prior to the games.
“Ten years of training, dreaming and managing my food, rest and sleep went down the drain.
“I had even put my studies on hold for the Commonwealth Games. I was in Indonesia’s Lampung Hospital for a week.
“The medical team at Majlis Sukan Negara suggested that I withdraw from the games,” said Erry.
However, both father and son were adamant that Erry should compete.
“My son has sacrificed years in training. As a father, it would have been a shame to not even let him try. It didn’t matter if he failed.
Displaying the mindset of a champion, Erry said he is targeting gold at the 2026 Commonwealth Games and is working to be at the peak of his health and fitness for the competition.
“That is my plan. I don’t know what God’s plan is for me, but I’ll continue to work hard,” he added.
Hidayat has struggled since retiring.
Appointed national coach to Malaysia’s Paralympian weightlifters, he moonlighted as an e-hailing driver to supplement his income until the Covid-19 lockdown saw his coaching stint cancelled and his driving earnings dwindle. He also developed a heart condition.
Thankfully, his health has improved. Hidayat now works part-time as a personal trainer and his e-hailing income has returned to pre-Covid levels.
Yet, with the rising cost of living, he still struggles to make ends meet.
“I do have some savings in my bank account but it is depleting. I just have to work harder,” he said, showing the same determination that made him a champion athlete.
Hidayat still pines for a role in coaching, and is actively looking for Erry’s replacement.
“He (Erry) is not getting any younger, so now I’m on the lookout for young kids with the potential to be weightlifting athletes.
“I feel I owe it to the country. Whenever the Negaraku plays, there is a sense of satisfaction and pride that I was able to bring glory to Malaysia,” said Hidayat.
He may not have been one at birth, but Hidayat Hamidon is a Malaysian through and through.