Starla Santana, a 14-year-old Cutler Bay resident, has taken an approach different from most active girls her age who are involved in dance, cheerleading or conventional sports. Starla has chosen the martial arts sport of Taekwondo and excels at it.
“Starla began her Taekwondo journey just over two years ago and trains at a local dojo called Hero Martial Arts under the guidance of Master Luis Cocco,” said her dad, Jose Santana, who is understandably proud. “Starla’s ferocity in the sport of Taekwondo was evident from the start and she brings an exciting style of fighting.”
His daughter returned home Aug. 30 from a weekend tournament where she competed at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. Starla clinched a spot as the Female USA Junior Team Member 55kg division and qualified to compete at the Junior World Championships tournament in Canada. This championship event will take place in November where Starla will be representing the United States in a quest to bring back a gold medal and be crowned as the world champion in her division.
“Starla is also an exemplary student beginning high school this year as a freshman at Palmetto High School,” Santana said. “Her dedication and success in the sport of Taekwondo are just dividends from her incredible drive as a young lady, but most important she is an awesome person.”
Santana believes that his daughter’s efforts can be inspirational to the community as combat sports often are not related to female athletes or are not as mainstream as other stereotypical “girl” activities. He hopes she might inspire other young girls and even parents who might be indecisive about putting their daughters into such combat sports.
Starla is focusing on her sport and has a clear idea of why it appeals to her.
“What I like about Taekwondo is having to stay composed and aware at all times because I have a constant threat of my opponent trying to kick me in the head,” she said. “I also like the discipline aspect of the martial arts and how it applies in your everyday life.”
She said she is excited about her accomplishments to date and especially the chance to compete in the upcoming tournament. Yet she remains well grounded.
“It feels amazing and I am extremely proud to represent this great country,” Starla said. “I do however feel as though there is so much more to accomplish and conquer in this long journey ahead of me.”
Her future plans are to represent the United States in the 2020 Olympics in Japan and hopefully win an Olympic gold medal.
“One of my many longrange goals in the sport of Taekwondo is to be considered the best female fighter in the world,” she said. “Outside of the sport of Taekwondo I want to continue my education and maybe explore a career in public service such as politics, government work or something related.”