Ukraine-born Valentyna Zolotarova, a former member of the Canadian national karate team, has joined Jamaica’s national team as a senior member. Zolotarova said she has seen the talent available in the country and is on a mission to develop and improve the sport of karate in Jamaica, adding that she would like junior athletes from the island to have more exposure to global competitions and training camps that are critical for their development.
Zolotarova believes that Jamaicans should regularly attend Junior Pan American Championships, Junior World Championships, Youth League competitions, and regional competitions in the Caribbean in order to develop the skills required to compete at the 2026 Youth Olympic Games and the 2028 Olympics. Another goal is to raise the participation of female athletes in Jamaican national karate. Zolotarova noted that Jamaica had a chance to enter the Youth Pan American Games in 2021 in one female division, but the island did not have an athlete of the required age and weight to do so and had to give up an excellent opportunity.
She added that greater participation in karate could help Jamaicans with their daily life challenges, as karate builds character, which transfers to any area of life. She used examples from her own life to illustrate her point, citing the numerous opportunities she has enjoyed because of her participation in karate. For example, Zolotarova is pursuing Advanced Coaching Certification available through the partnership of the Jamaican Olympic Association and the US Sport Academy. She also has a full scholarship from the World Academy of Sport and the Commonwealth Games Federation to complete a postgraduate degree in International Sports Management at the University of London.
Zolotarova stated that her experience gives her the expertise she needs to improve the sport of karate in Jamaica that she is pursuing as she has seen international competitions in all three roles: athlete, coach, and referee. She competed at the Senior World Championships in 2021, 2007, and 2005, and was a judge at the Worlds in 2015 and 2016. She also coached Jamaican Khalil Gordon to his first World Championships in 2021. Working with other karate instructors and having the support of the president of the Jamaica Karate Federation has aided in her continued contributions toward improving the national teams. She is facilitating annual training plans, offers feedback on the technical performance of athletes, and collaborates to monitor athletes’ progress.
Zolotarova said that it was natural for her to represent Jamaica as she is “Jamaican by marriage” and fell in love with Jamaican culture as a youth, even before visiting the island.
Photo – Valentyna Zolotarova