If her parents had their way, Indonesian atomweight star Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol would be working a regular job today. But “Thathie” had other plans.
The softly-spoken Gaol was a well-behaved, attentive girl as a youngster. She played with dolls, danced ballet, and enjoyed swimming. She was a model pupil at school, and although her family couldn’t afford to send her to medical school, they planned on sending their daughter to university to study for an IT degree.
But Gaol wanted a different life for herself.
“My parents wanted me to be a normal nine-to-five girl, working in an office,” the 29-year-old told ONE Championship.
“But I was not interested in that.”
Jakarta native Gaol had dreams of becoming a professional athlete and pay her own way through university. To that end, she took matters into her own hands during her high school days.
Aged 17, she skipped school to attend wushu classes, but was soon caught when the school’s principal called her parents’ house to ask why their daughter had been absent from class.
The school wasn’t helpful in her career aims, either, refusing her requests to let her pursue her athletic goals as well as her academic ones. But eventually she got her way, and took her chance with both hands.
“I wanted to be both a student and an athlete, but the school refused,” she said.
“The school eventually caved in, and let me attend a boxing tournament. I won that.
“When I explained it to my parents, they understood it, but they still wanted me to study.”
Gaol had great success in her athletic endeavours, becoming an Indonesian national wushu champion and earning a bronze medal in wushu at the SEA Games. Her successes in wushu saw her earn a spot on the world’s biggest martial arts organization in ONE Championship.
Despite her successes, her family still hasn’t given her their unconditional backing. But she explained that her parents’ stance is beginning to soften.
Gaol’s father will be in attendance when she steps into the cage on Saturday, 12 May, at ONE: GRIT AND GLORY in her home town of Jakarta. Plus, her mother has promised she’ll watch the bout live on television for the first time. Previously she’d only watch the highlights knowing the result in advance.
“They support me now, but they do not want to see their daughter get beaten up,” Gaol explained.
“They are proud of me, but they do not know how to express it.”
Her parents’ cautious backing of their daughter’s exploits isn’t simply through a desire to keep Gaol safe. They are also thinking about her younger brother, 18-year-old Hariyono, who is part of the same team as Priscilla, and trains Muay Thai.
“I am very happy to have my brother here,” she said.
“There is another member of the family [trying] to become an athlete.”
While her parents remain wary, Priscilla says having her brother in the gym is very much a positive thing, with the pitfalls of gangs and drugs on the streets of Jakarta. All the while he’s training in the gym, he’s safely tucked away from those negative influences and dangers.
“I will be looking at his progress,” she said, saying she’ll take her brother under her wing, if he ever decides to follow her footsteps and try his luck inside the cage.
“If he has talent and the fighting spirit, I will support him if he wants to enter mixed martial arts,” she says.
“Of course, my parents want him to go to university.”
Gaol’s chosen career path may not be what her parents had envisaged for her, but she’s determined to make a success of herself, and, having won her last two contests, she’ll be looking to complete a hat-trick of wins when she takes on Rome Trinidad at the Jakarta Convention Center on 12 May.
With her parents beginning to show more support for her career, the future looks bright for “Thathie”.