If you keep up with the Nepali sports scene, you have probably heard of Sheshuka Rai. She is a third dan (10th dan being the highest rank) at the Nepal Karate Federation, the winner of Sports Icon Nepal 2016, and a licensed karate referee at the Asian Karate Federation. And although Rai started her journey in the sports scene as a fierce karate player, she got mass attention and recognition only after working as a certified international referee.
Reminiscing her early days as a beginner in karate, Rai reveals that as a child she had zero interest in karate or any kind sports for that matter. Apparently, her aunt and father forced her into attending karate lessons when she was in the second grade. And although she wasn’t very keen to show up for these lessons regularly at the time, she mentions that she is glad that she actually attended all those classes.
After a couple of years of regularly attending these lessons, she started getting into karate and sports in general. “Now, I truly think that someone who is invested in sports (or a physical activity of any form) can succeed in all areas of their life. Doing that keeps you healthy, teaches you the importance of hard work, and makes you more creative as well,” she says.
Throughout her school years, Rai mentions that she participated in and won a lot of school level (both in school and inter school) sports competition. Vigorous karate training sessions had strengthened her body and developed her stamina enough for her to try her hand at a lot of sports including badminton, basketball, and running. After she completed her SLC, she moved to Kathmandu from her birthplace, Khotang, to pursue higher studies. She went on to win other national level medals during her +2 and bachelor degree years.
Rai claims that winning the Sports Icon Nepal in 2016 was definitely the biggest confidence boost so far. It made her believe she could push her boundaries and do more. “I’ve always been mostly focused on sports and taking part in a talent/beauty pageant (even though it was related to sports) gave me a lot of new experiences,” she says. She further explains that it was also a good exposure for her, one that opened doors for a lot of other opportunities in her career. However, Rai expresses her displeasure at how a lot of sports icons don’t really get good exposure in our country.
Another big accomplishment that took Rai’s career to new heights was her appointment as a referee at the Asian Karate Federation. She had been refereeing national karate competitions for a while before she decided to venture into the international arena. She sat for the examinations to qualify as an international karate referee in Sri Lanka back in 2017 and passed both her theory and practical examinations.
When questioned about which she prefers more, refereeing a karate match or taking part in it as a player, Rai is quick to say refereeing without missing a beat. “It’s not that I don’t enjoy karate as a player anymore. I just think a referee has a bigger responsibility during a match and I love handling that responsibility,” says Rai explaining that the only thing a player is concerned about is winning the game whereas the referee is in charge of the result and the progression of the entire game. She also mentions that she feels that only mature players can move onto becoming referees and that she is glad she got to experience this aspect of being an athlete quite early on in her career.
Currently, Rai is pursing her master’s degree – she is a first year MBS student – and she mentions that completing her masters is what she is primarily focused on right now. She is also getting into modeling and acting. She has already been featured on a number of music videos of Nepali artists and right now she is prepping to shoot her first film. But Rai doesn’t think she will last in the acting and modeling industry for long. She states that right now, since all of that is still new to her, she is taking these opportunities as a learning experience. As far as her future is concerned, Rai wants to establish herself as an entrepreneur who is involved in both sports and business.
As for her thoughts regarding Nepal’s sports scene, Rai claims that even though our country has a lot of athletes who have the potential to win in the international arena, the lack of interest the government shows in this industry prevents that from happening. For what she’s seen after traveling to a lot of countries for her refereeing stunts, countries like Thailand and Japan invest a lot in developing their athletes and give them plenty of opportunities to venture into the international sports scene. “In Nepal, the government’s lack of interest in sports is disheartening. The sports sector can’t prosper till there’s active involvement of the authorities,” concludes Rai.