Nelka Shiromala creates boxing history by officiating two Olympic finals
Shiromala has many unique records in the Sri Lankan Boxing arena .She is the only Sri Lankan three star women’s referee judge and also became the first Sri Lankan women referee to officiate in Olympics.
She was among the first batch of four women to pass the referee and judges examination. Her life changed thereafter and emerged as a star carrying herself with her panache as a referee to become a one-star international official in 2011. She made her international debut, the first from Sri Lanka, at the 2011 Indonesian President’s Cup, where significantly she was the only woman official. Then she was invited to officiate 2011 London Olympic test event where she was awarded a two star qualification just after six months of international refereeing. Later she advanced as a three star referee and World Series Boxing (WSB) referee affiliated to the world boxing governing body, Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur (AIBA).
“I had a lot of obstacles to reach this level but I overcame them with my achievements as a boxing referee judge. Especially I still remember Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa encouraging referees and judges before the Tokyo journey . He always said not only Olympian athletes but also the referees who get a chance to represent at International level should not be forgotten as they also bring honour to the country. Only 36 boxing referees got the Olympic chance and I was lucky to be one of the referees. said Shiromala ,the Chief Inspector attached to the Child and Women’s Bureau who also gave credit to Minister of Public Security Dr Sarath Weerasekara who always encouraged her to go to this major event to bring honour to Sri Lanka Police
“I. am also the first Sri Lankan women’s boxing referee to officiate Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast 2018 and now first Sri Lankan women’s boxing referee to Olympics and it was special officiating two gold medal bouts out of nine finals . The first one men’s light heavy weight (75-81 kg) between Benjamin Whittaker of Germany and Arlen Lopez of Cuba which was won by Lopez in a close battle.
My second final was women’s 57-60 kg light weight final between Ireland boxer Kellie Harrington and Brazil’s Beatriz Ferreira. Finally Harrington won the gold by defeating 2019 world gold medallist Ferreira . Actually this bout was a very tough final. Brazil boxer did well at the first round but second and third round was dominated by Irish boxer who recorded a thrilling win to take gold .
When my name with Sri Lanka flag as a referee was displayed at the screen near the Olympic Boxing ring I was really proud to bring honour to my country. It’s my dream come true but all credit goes to my late father Tampu Sampath . His death wish was to see his daughter Shiromala attain Olympian heights as a boxing referee. I was lucky to reach my goal but today my father was not there to see my achievements
“I do not know how to tell you that I lost my father. On the final day of the European Olympic qualifying competition in Paris last June , my husband called me and told me my father had suddenly passed away
after a heart attack . I could not think of anything. I went into the room and cried loudly until the grief subsided,” Shiromala paid an emotional tribute to her loving father on her unbearable loss two month’s ago. “I did not let you feel the loss of not having a son. Following in your footsteps, I became a boxer. Dear father , I did it. I have made all your dreams come true,” she added.
“My loving father was my first boxing coach. He was a Navy boxing coach after being a talented boxer at National level Following in my father’s footsteps, I became the first female boxer to represent the Sri Lanka Police. I was the first female international boxing judge from Sri Lanka. All these honours belong to my father ,” said Shiromala who was named Asia’s Best Boxing Referee of 2017 and the first woman to officiate in any sport from Sri Lanka at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia as well as Olympics .
After I left my school Rippon Balika MV Galle . I joined Sri Lanka Police as a Sub Inspector . When women’s boxing was first introduced to Sri Lanka in 2001, Navy’s boxing coach was my father T. Sampath
.Being the eldest of four sisters in my family my father wanted to see me follow his footsteps as a boxer . Shiromala’s father . wished to see his daughter achieving what he could not – become an Olympian. One of the pioneer women boxers in Sri Lanka,Shiromala did not scale great heights as a pugilist but stamped her class as a referee in the international arena and she became a Olympic boxing referee .
“I could never be national champion because age was catching up. I decided, if I can’t be in the Olympics as a boxer, I would go to the Olympics as a referee,” she said. It turned out to be her father’s death wish too and happy to reach that ultimate goal but unfortunately my father was not with me to share this great moment .
She also paid a tribute to her two mentors late Hurbert Embuldeniya the senior boxing referee judge and hiswife Neiva Embuldeniya presently living in Canada. They always encouraged me to go forward as a referee . They are my second father and mother and not forgetting my husband Chandana Wickramanayake and daughter Manuli who always backed me to get this success . Her mother became a “Dasasil Matha’ living in a Aramaya at Gampaha but her blessings are always with Shiromala.