Stephanie Handojo Embodies Real Olympic Spirit

Stephanie ‘Fani’ Handojo is one of many Special Olympics athletes around the world who puts in the same hard work and dedication that the athletes leading up to the London 2012 Olympics Games do.

A beacon of Inspiration

28 June 2012: Stephanie Handojo runs with the Olympics Torch in Nottingham, England.

Stephanie's excelled in sport and music, and lauded from her local community up to the Office of the President of the Indonesian Republic. In recognition of her achievements, the 20 year old represented Indonesia in London 2012 Olympic Torch Run in Nottinghamshire on 28 June.

Nominated by UNICEF Indonesia and the British Council, Stephanie was part of International Inspiration, the official international sports legacy programme of London 2012. Stephanie was selected as one of the 20 young people for their “dedication and commitment to inspiring children and young people in their communities through the power of sport, or for the personal challenges they have overcome in their lives.”

A Dream Fulfilled

Stephanie training in her home city of Jakarta, Indonesia.

For Stephanie’s mum, Maria Yustina, seeing her daughter in the Olympic Torch Relay made her “extremely happy and proud. “To be an Olympic Torchbearer, selected from 12 million children – this is such a rare opportunity and a tremendous achievement for her. Fani proves that with perseverance, discipline, and zeal she can achieve her dreams.”

For Stephanie, the honour is a bonus to an already wonderful 2012 – this year she graduates from vocational school.

Zeal for Success

Gold in Athens for Stephanie.

Stephanie’s feats stem from Maria’s unwavering commitment to Stephanie’s excellence. Maria recognizes her daughter’s potential and sees no limitations. Despite a setback that put Stephanie out of the pool, Maria knew she would succeed eventually.
“Once, during a swimming competition, Stephanie almost drowned,” said Maria.  “That traumatised her and she didn’t swim for three years after that.”

Maria helped Stephanie conquer her fear, gathering Stephanie in her arms and wading into the middle of the pool, assuring her daughter that she would be safe.

Once Stephanie’s confidence was restored, Maria worked closely with Stephanie’s swimming coaches on her training regime. Stephanie trains three times weekly, four times if it’s before a competition, focusing on conditioning, weight training and pacing.  The hard work paid off. “She’s consistently in the top three in local and national competitions,” says Maria. Stephanie’s experience culminated in a gold medal for the 50 metres Division Breaststroke event at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens.

Three 'D's of Sportsmanship

Pillar of support: Stephanie with her family in Nottingham.

Maria is familiar with the rigors of competition – when she was nine, she played competitive badminton at national level for eight years. Maria’s philosophy to motivate Stephanie is a simple one of discipline, determination and dedication: “To succeed, you need to stay disciplined and persevere in your training. Each athlete must strive to have a high level of sportsmanship and maintain maximum performance. They must be mentally prepared to accept defeat, not despair and give up. I remind Stephanie of this every time before a competition.”

The Dream Continues

Stephanie together with her International Inspiration teammates.

Stephanie’s next challenge is to continue developing an independent life. Currently she works in the family laundromat alongside her parents and siblings. One of Stephanie’s dreams is to be an inspiration for the Down Syndrome community, and to teach Down Syndrome children self reliance.