I started my journey in taekwondo when I was studying in Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV) as a part of my extracurricular activity. From there, I got selected in SAI Guwahati. I was born in Tejpur, Assam and it was in Tejpur I started my journey. After entering SAI, I continued progressing. I participated in the senior nationals from then I'm continuing.
In our school, it was compulsory to take up sports as an extracurricular activity. So I started taekwondo with my friends and eventually, I fell in love with the sport. The coach motivated me because I had good height and flexibility, which transcended well into the sport.
My main coach, Tamas Sethi has been my biggest motivator in the sport. I have joined the center of Excellence in Bengaluru, and since then I have been staying here. I got clear support from my family as well as my father constantly wanted me to become a good player.
Rodali Barua winning the gold medal at 2019 South Asian Games
I won my first bronze medal in nationals back in 2016. The performance started to peak the next year, when I won gold medals consecutively for three years in the nationals and university games from 2017 to 2019. In 2017, I reached the quarter-finals of the World University Games in Taipei after winning the gold medal in the All-India University Games. In 2019, I participated in the World University Games in Italy. Again in Jordan Open Internationals, I won two gold medals and a bronze. I participated in the 2018 Asian Games. However, my biggest achievement so far was the South Asian Games in 2019 where I won a gold. It was a proud moment for me, winning a medal for my country on such a big platform.
In the first round, I got a bye. In the finals, I fought against the Nepalese Olympian who took part in the 2016 Rio Olympics. I won the fight by a margin of 32-8, which lifted my confidence. It was my second fight with her. The whole exposure in the SAF games lifted my morale.
Rodali in action
The only tournament I could play in 2020 was the Fujairah Open Ranking Tournament in Dubai this February, where I won a bronze medal.
I am taking a break right now. During this lockdown, everyone has been sent to their home from SAI authorities. But I took the permission as the Asian Qualification was about to be held in June. I stayed over in SAI and practiced and work on my fitness for six-to-eight months in Bengaluru. Since I was the only taekwondo player in SAI, the whole focus on training was on me, and I gained a lot of exposure through it. I worked on my shortcomings at those sessions.
When I joined SAI for the first time, I saw Asian Games medallist Surinder Bhandari training there and he was also our coach. It was inspiring seeing him putting so much effort in our training. There were a lot of inputs I gained from him. He even supported me a lot.
Compared to earlier days, India has a lot of potential in taekwondo today with the coming generation actively taking interest in the sport. We have gained plenty of exposure performing across the world. Slowly people will recognise us taekwondo players, and we will make our presence felt by our performances.
Presently, there are no guidelines have been given to us when the international tournaments will be happening. Till then I will keep working on my training regime and fitness. I have set my target to qualify in the Olympics through the Asian Qualification event, which I am preparing for. Taking Indian taekwondo to Olympics is a long road, but I am ready to walk the extra mile to attain this goal.