As a young girl growing up in South Sumatra, Ina Febriana Sari was surrounded by some unusual role models. Her whole family was involved in martial arts, yet it was little Ina, not one of her brothers, who realised their father’s dream of becoming an Olympic martial-arts competitor!
Ina is the first Indonesian woman and youngest to earn a 7 DAN international black belt from Kukkiwon, the world tae kwon do headquarters. As well as being coach to the Indonesian National Poomsae Team, she is the first Indonesian woman to become an international referee for the World Taekwondo Federation, a huge accomplishment for this vivacious fighter!
We met up with Master Ina to find out more about her kick-ass career, including her Olympic experiences.
What inspired you to take up tae kwon do?
Well, my whole family was into martial arts, my father used to do Judo, while my mum and aunt did karate, and my three brothers were all black belts in tae kwon do. My father encouraged us all to excel in sports as he wasn’t tall enough to be a national athlete
Have you achieved all the goals you set yourself?
Yes, I wanted to be an Olympic athlete and I did it! It was in Seoul 1988, and I was only 18 but I got to the semifinals. It was awesome to see my parents so happy! I was No. 8 in the world!
What has been the most important moment in your career?
The Olympic moment! When I heard my name called out for the first time to represent my country, Indonesia, at the Olympic Games.
You have competed in two Olympic games, how was that experience?
Actually, I only competed in Seoul in 1988. For Barcelona in 1992, I was a member of the national Olympic team but didn’t get to compete. It was the greatest moment of my life and I will never forget the awesome feeling as you enter the stadium. Seeing amazing athletes like Gabriela Sabatini and Ben Johnson with my own eyes, unforgettable!
What has been the most difficult obstacle in your career?
Actually it was studying. In Indonesia it was not easy to study and be an athlete at the same time. Financially, it was really difficult to balance the two. It was sad that I had to choose college first and then earn money after my studies by taking a break from being a national athlete to teach tae kwon do and create my own tae kwon do academy.
Besides tae kwon do, what are your other passions and dreams?
Believe it or not, I would love to be a professional golfer or race-car driver! But seriously I do try to give happiness wherever I can. For example, instead of celebrating my birthday in a usual way, my friends and I go to an orphanage or an old folk’s home and we celebrate there! Singing and dancing, they just love it.
Having said that, my dream is a simple one – to have a house by the beach.
What advice would you give aspiring tae kwon do athletes?
It’s quite simple: reach your dream with your heart and practice, practice, practice. Never give up!