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Determination and courage were the key to Sriyani Dhammika’s success

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She was born in, Akmeemana Galle and started her education at Manawila Upananda Vidyalaya. She took up Athletics in her early school days as a sprinter in under 11 age category. She won first places in 75 metres and, 100 metres events and also did other sports like Netball, Volleyball, Elle and also women’s football and most of the time was spent at her school playgrounds. She was adjudged best athlete in Southern Province in 1984. The Sport officer Wanigaratna noticed this young athlete’s ability and that was the beginning of her long journey. However for higher studies she crossed over to Sangamittta BMV, Galle and this chance came due to her prowess in athletics.

“When I took part at National sports Festival at Kurunegala Welagedara Stadium for the first time I was just 14 years old but I won the 800 metres silver medal and 1500 metres bronze medal and that same year in 1984 Carl Lewis won four gold medals at Los Angeles Olympics. His performance really influenced me to go to Olympics one day and that was my dream as a 14 year old athlete.”

“I had difficulties when began athletics. However my determination was very high and dedication and commitment to the sport paved the way for my success. I had to train for more than ten years for the Olympics with limited facilities at Torrignton grounds. I had to put in all my efforts and my coaches assistance will never be forgotten. I still remember those days I used to buy a 12 rupee lunch packet from Rupavahini Corporation Canteen and start my practices at Torrignton grounds. Luckily before the Olympics Sports Ministry offered me a scholarship to Germany and that was very important for the Olympics.

Sriyani also participated in the Asian Athletics Championships held in New Delhi, India in 1989 and in Malaysia in 1991. In 1991, at the 5th SAF Games held in Colombo, she won two Gold Medals in the 800 metres and 1,500 metres events defeating more experienced Indian athletes.

At the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992, she was placed 26th out of 45 athletes participating in the 800 metres event and recording a time of 2.03.6s. In the 1,500m event her time was 4.26.7s. After the Olympic Games, she participated in an Invitational Meet in Malaysia and won two Gold Medals in the 800 metres and 1,500 metres events.

“I was able to finish with my best time in 800 metres at Olympics which was a new National record and for nearly three decades no one couldn’t break that record while my 1500m record which was also a new record with good timing was broken after 18 years and these achievements always proved my success story after a difficult journey. Especially during the 1992 Olympic Games I was able to take a picture with Carl Lewis and his relay team. That was also a dream come true for me.”

“I came from the village and my parents were farmers. I started my events without track shoes and but all those obstructions I never thought and finally ended as an Olympian which is the ultimate goal for any athlete. At the Olympics I was able to set up new National records in my both events 800m and 1500m and I am really proud about my achievement All Olympian can’t win medals but I think if any athlete will go for the event like Olympics he or she should go for at least for personal best. I did it with more confidence and this is good xample to all athletes.’

“When I got a chance to take part my first international meet as a 15 year old athlete at the Asian junior championships in Singapore. I have fond memories of this meet and had to compete with 20 year old athletes. However I ran without any track shoes as there were no shoes for me.

I pasted plaster onto my foot and finished the 3000metres race with a 200 metres lead to take the gold medal. Following day I had to run 1500 metres with severe pain in my feet but once again ran with plasters and finally ended with a bronze medal and that was my commitment to the sport .’

“From 1980 to 1993 I gave my hundred percent commitment to the sport for my country and retired with happy memories. One time I was a member of the athletic selection committee. Sriyani Dhammika is married to former Cambrian and Nomads cricketer Badra Seneviratne. Today I live with my two sons who are 26 years and 22 years old and twin daughters, who are 20 years old. I also retired from 30 years service at HNB which also gave maximum support to my athletic career. I think our service is valuable to promote the sport.

After I retired I was very keen to look after my mother and unfortunately she passed away last month.

We came from village to Colombo and Our determination and courage always helped to reach the International level. Getting a Olympic chance is very difficult and athletes should give their best to reach this level. I have one request on behalf of all Olympians. Grant them at least a pension and the Government should grant this decision.

We have more than 90 Olympians in Sri Lanka and nearly 20 of them have already passed away. But most retired Olympians today are having financial difficulties but they sacrificed more time for the sports those days and responsibility to protect them lies wiith the government concluded Sriyani Dhammika.

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