By S Banerjee: Odia girl Valena Valentina is arguably the best female karateka in the country today. Not surprisingly, she again won gold in the senior Nationals last month at New Delhi. She is daughter of Radha Raman ‘Mohanty’ who was an arm wrestler and power lifter of national repute in his time. He also represented the state in soccer and played for the famous East Bengal club.
Yes, sports run in the family. The lineage part is fine. But then one wonders about the name—‘Valena Valentina’, particularly when the family surname is ‘Mohanty’.
It was revealed by Valena herself to ONI that her name was intentionally given by her own parents to break the stereotype image of Odisha girls and women, rather than anything else. The hour long interview with Valena clearly revealed that she actually has grown to embody this spirit and today epitomizes the ‘I Dare’ attitude, rarely seen in womankind of the State. Valena is that specimen of womanhood who relishes to break frontiers and smash the entire stereotype attached to her species, her attitude matching her lithe and lightning karate moves and hence she can be definitely called a torchbearer as well as a trendsetter.
Valena was introduced to Karate at the age of ten in Bhubaneswar. But all her honing and development into a top karateka was made possible under the tutelage of J.S.Kalaimani, the renowned coach from Tamil Nadu, who is also one of the Vice Presidents of the Karate Association of India (KAI) and India head of the Ryu-shin-kan form of Karate. Valena practises and has mastered this particular form, courtesy her guru.
In the senior National level, Valena has won gold continuously in the open kata event since 2005 and also gold at the under 50 kg kumite event on most events, barring a few where she landed up with silver. Valena is not one to hold any regrets in life but still two previous episodes in her career rankle in her a bit. She missed the Asian Games bronze by a whisker in 2010. In 2014, she was in peak of her preparation and form in the run up to the Incheon Games. In fact, the year 2009 saw her leaving her home state and move to Hyderabad to remain focused on training and preparation, particularly with International events in mind. But due to some internal technical problems of KAI, the karate team was withdrawn from participating at the 2014 Asiad at the eleventh hour and it came as a huge disappointment to Valena. Nevertheless this made her resolve stronger and she became determined to set her ambitions and goals higher. She is now fully motivated and focused to give her best shot at the 2020 Olympics, where karate will be introduced for the first time. “Rest assured, I will spearhead India’s challenge in karate at the 2020 Games. I am not only focused but have full backing of my family who wants me to give it a shot. Even issues like marriage and other mundane things will all take a backseat till then’’, said Valena.
Valena has not only excelled in a martial art sport but also crashes all notions of any male domain or domination in any field of activity, for that matter. “It is all about mentality. Women are only meant to wash clothes, do the dishes, get married off , rear children, apply mehendi on their hands etc etc—that is the stereotype image etched in our minds, more pronouncedly in my home state Odisha. But women have everything in them to match men or even go one better in every field with the right kind of attitude and backing. Now you can see the power of women all around you. Stereotypes are being broken .Women centric films are being made. Women are even doing stunts. Did you see Katrina Kaif in Dhoom 3? But more Odia women need to break the stereotype and come out from their shell to match the growing trend of women power in the country ’’, she pointed out.
She feels that taking up martial art could make women not only bold and assertive but also act as a wonderful tool of self-defence for them to thwart off any evil design. “In karate we shriek along with our moves. It is part of the game and actually symbolizes the inner power and assertiveness. If any woman just shrieks and roars, then too, it can act a deterrent against any attack. As most of the things happen in the mind, this will give an image that the female is not just a taken and granted weak species but can challenge. I suggest martial art to be one of the compulsory subjects in school education, particularly in case of girls. It will do a world of good to them.” she opined.
Valena will be shortly opening her own karate school at Bhubaneswar. Already she has a motley group of students whom she trains regularly. “I may have made a name but you need more good karatekas from the state who can fetch medals at National and International level. For a sport to prosper you need a line of achievers and solid performers and not just one brilliant player, with whose fading out the sport will die in the State. This is the sole reason for me to open the school. As always, my family is solidly behind me. What to talk of opening a school, my own dream of taking up a costly sport like karate wouldn’t have been realised without all out support from my family”, said Valena.
Valena is a proud Odia who is out to show that Odias are no less in performance and attitude to any other state of the country. “Previously I was ridiculed as one who has come from the jungles, when people use to hear about my native state during events and national meets. They thought that Odias cannot even talk and dress properly. Sportspersons from Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra etc have a feeling that any sports begins and ends with them in the country. But now I am a trailblazer and have nothing more to show and prove to carry across the message as to what stuff Odias are made of. But we need more performing and assertive personalities in the sports arena from our state to keep Odisha at par”, said Valena with pride.
In fact, with her lissome body and good looks, the dusky karateka has loads of style and attitude to match. Today her glamour and fashion quotient is talked of in the sporting and other circles as much as her flying kicks. Valena wears fashion on her sleeves, has that infectious personality and exudes oomph in the air around her. “Style and sports go together. Sportspersons are people with toned bodies. Fashion and new trends suit them. From the Serena Williams, Maria Sharapovas right to the Sania Mirzas of our country, the sportspersons are the real fashion icons of today. In fact, many a times a certain fashion trend starts when it is endorsed and adorned by a famous sportsperson. Yes, I am in the same league”, said Valena, with a smile on her face.
One is simply moved by the brash boldness and fantastic self confidence of this young woman. For all those girls and young women in Odisha who want to break free from the shackles and cocoons that from time bygone has wound them up in a manner that they cannot express their true potential and inner self, there can be no better person to emulate that Valena Valentina. Team ONI wishes her all the best for her upcoming school to leave her fantastic legacy behind as also for her cherished dream to not only participate in the 2020 Olympics but also hopefully bag a medal that will be fantastic way to finish her career on a high. Go girl, Go.
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