Darsha – Sri Lanka’s most decorated Asian Games athlete
Damayanthi Darsha could be considered as the most decorated Sri Lankan Women Athlete in the Asian Games history for her tremendous success of having ended her illustrious career with three gold medals. She dominated the sprint events at the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok,
Thailand to claim gold medals in the 200m and 400m events and added another gold medal to her tally by winning the 400m at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea.
This was probably the golden era of Sri Lankan athletics as Darsha, together with her teammate and the legendary Susanthika Jayasinghe went on to dominate the Asian circuit while pushing the more experienced Chinese and Japanese athletes into second place.
In fact, Darsha came into the scene at a period when the Asian powerhouse China were dictating terms and were sweeping almost all medals in the sprint and middle-distance events at the Asian Games. At the age of 23, this young lass from Ampara, took the country by storm and reached new heights as she raced to a stunning victory in the 200m with a new Asian Games record at the Thammasat Stadium on December 18, 1998.
Altogether, this was a memorable event for Darsha because she shattered the Asian Games record in the Women’s 200m event twice in successive days.
First, she clocked 23.16s to win heat-1 ahead of Li Xuemei of China (23.35) and Lyubov Perepelova of Uzbekistan (23.71) and on the following day she bettered her own record by returning a time of 22.48s in the final. The Chinese contingent were stunned as their most experienced runners in this event Li Xuemei (22.53s) and Yan Jiankui (23.15) had to settle with
the silver and bronze medal respectively.
Darsha, of course, came into this event with her head high having already clinched the gold medal in the 400m race where she returned a time of 51.57s. Once again, she had the satisfaction of pushing her Chinese rival Chen Yuxiang in to second place (52.50) while Svetlana Bodritskaya of Kazakhstan secured the bronze medal with a time of 53.00s
Four years later, in 2002, Darsha produced another outstanding performance to win the gold medal in the 400m event with a record-breaking performance in Busan, South Korea.
She won heat-2 with a time of 52.25s – the best effort out of the 15 competitors but in the final, she powered her way to a smashing win while returning a time of 51.13s while erasing the previous best of 51.17s held by Ma Yukin of China in Hiroshima, Japan in 1994.
Darsha received her early education at Ampara Bandaranaike MV and later she joined Panadura Balika MV where she excelled in the 100m and 200m events in the Under-17 category.
Because of her outstanding success she was given admission to Ladies’ College, Colombo and while there, she won the national title in the 100m and 200m events in 1991.
In 1991, she set a new Sri Lanka record of 11.8s for the 100m and in 1992 she set a record for the 200m. Her first international athletics meet was the Malaysian Open in 1991 and was awarded the Duncan White Trophy in 1992.
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