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Good Sports: The Lioness who Kicked her Way to The Top

Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai Email Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai
June 2023
Good Sports: The Lioness who Kicked her Way to The Top

At age 20, Rayna Vallandingham, a martial arts expert from Southern California, is a 13-time world champion in taekwondo.

A fourth-degree black belt, she gives credit to her parents and grandfather for supporting her. Introduced to martial arts at age 2, she won her first world title seven years later.

“My grandpa, Nana, as I call him in the Punjabi language... he was so supportive of me,” she said, speaking to In the Know by Yahoo. “He would take me to the dojo every single day when I was 2 and (would be) hiding under the benches. And he would just persevere with me and be like, ‘You know what, Rayna? I believe in you.’ She’s going to do this. She’s my kaur, she’s my lioness. And kaur I actually have tattooed on me because it means lioness in Punjabi. And I think that every time I look at it, I just feel so empowered.”

In a male-dominated sport, she sometimes heard taunts, but didn’t let them bother her. “When they would say, ‘You kick like a girl,’ I would take it as a compliment,” she said. “Girls kick so beautifully. We have the most flexibility, you know.”

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Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.

[Comments? Contributions? We would love to hear from you about Chai Time. If you have contributions, please email us at melvin@melvindurai.com. We welcome jokes, quotes, online clips, and more.]

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