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Woman on a mission

Zolotarova wants to help improve karate, female participation in Jamaica

UKRAINE-BORN AND former Canadian national karate team member Valentyna Zolotarova, who is now lifting the Jamaican flag as a senior member of the island’s national karate team, says she is on a mission to help improve the sport in Jamaica.

According to Zolotarova, there is talent in Jamaica and she would like to see more development in the sport.

“I would like to see our junior athletes have more exposure to international competition and training camps which is imperative for their development,” she said.

“Regular attendance to Junior Pan American Championships, Junior World Championships and Youth League competitions as well as regional Caribbean competitions on the surrounding islands can help realise this vision to develop to the level required to be competitive at 2026 Youth Olympic Games and 2028 Olympic Games.”

Another of Zolotarova’s goals is to increase the number of female athletes representing the nation in karate.

In 2021, Jamaica had an opportunity for a spot at the Youth Pan American Games in one female division (but) unfortunately, we did not have an athlete in the required weight and age category and had to give up this brilliant opportunity,” she said.

“I was saddened by this experience and made it my goal to increase female participation.”


Zolotarova said if more Jamaicans participated in karate, it could help them with their day-to-day lives.

“Karate builds character and this is transferable to any area of life,” she said.

To highlight her view, Zolotarova points to the myriad of opportunities she has had because of karate.

“I am pursuing Advanced Coaching Certification afforded by the partnership of the Jamaican Olympic Association and US Sport Academy,” she said.

“I am also completing a postgraduate degree in International Sports Management at the University of London on a full scholarship received from the World Academy of Sport and the Commonwealth Games Federation. I feel immense gratitude and responsibility to the Jamaican Olympic Association for these opportunities, and I consider my contributions to Jamaican sport as my life’s mission.”

As a coach, Zolotarova says the processes behind the improvement she is trying to bring about are aided by her experience.

“I have seen the international competition world through three different lenses – athlete, coach, referee,” she said.

“I competed at the Senior World Championships as an athlete in 2021, 2007 and 2005. I was a judge at the World Championships in 2015 and 2016 when I took a break from competing to become a mother.”

She coached Jamaican male 67kg athlete, Khalil Gordon, at his first World Championships in 2021.

She said working with other instructors and being supported by the president of the Jamaica Karate Federation (JKF) has helped her to continue to contribute to the progression of the national teams.

“I am facilitating the creation of yearly training plans, providing feedback on athlete technical performance and collaboratively monitoring athlete progress,” she said.

She said although she is Jamaican by marriage, choosing to represent Jamaica was natural for her because she fell in love with the Jamaican culture at a young age, even before coming to visit.

Zolotarova is competing at the senior Pan American Karate Championships next week in Curaçao.

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