Early Beginnings

Valentyna Zolotarova is an international karate athlete aiming to compete at the 2020 Olympics in the Women’s -55 kg category. She was born in 1987 in Odessa, Ukraine. Her parents moved to Illichevsk, now known as Chernomorsk, where her late great grandfather was the Head of the Port for many years and where her father continued to work as a Marine Engineer. Valentyna’s karate journey began there in 1993 at the age of 6 with her first Sensei Yurii Stepanovich Vitruk in the local Sports Palace. Valentyna’s mom, Iryna (also an engineer) had to put her career on hold to take care of Valentyna who had severe asthma. It was Iryna’s idea to put Valentyna in karate to help regulate her breathing. Karate not only cured Valentyna's asthma, it also became a lifelong passion.


Valentyna’s family moved from Ukraine 3 years after her karate journey began, but Valentyna continued to train and compete everywhere she went. Over the years, she was the Cyprus National Champion in 1997 while training with Sensei Stefanos Marneros and Canadian National Champion 2003-2008 while training with Sensei Brian James and Sensei Hamid Tarighatbin. She was on the Canadian National Team 2003-2008 and won 3 bronze medals at the Panamerican Championships (1 in kata in 2003 and 2 in kumite in 2003 and 2006). She also made top 7 in kata at the 2005 Junior World championships during this time. Valentyna got married in 2009 and gave birth to three sons before returning to international competition. During this time, she moved around due to her family and work and thought that her days as an international athlete were over. Wherever she went, Valentyna continued to train and karate remained a big part of her life while living in the UAE and Jamaica. 


When Valentyna restarted her competitive days after karate was added to the 2020 Olympic Program, she started to compete internationally representing her dojo “Hayabusa Karate”. This was the start of a long, difficult and incredible road towards 2020 which she calls the #ValyJourney.