Everything else.. Representing Sri Lanka at Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Representing Sri Lanka at Tokyo 2020 Olympics

2021 Jul 12

The Olympics is a spectacular event, which is held every four years. Unfortunately, due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Olympics had to be postponed. This year, Olympians have the opportunity to compete, with Coronavirus safety measures in place. The Games are scheduled to take place in Tokyo, Japan, between 23rd July and 3rd August, featuring 33 sports at 339 events across 42 venues. Meanwhile, the Paralympic Games are set to take place between 24th August and 5th September, featuring 22 sports at 539 events across 21 venues.

Frankly, this spectacular event brings together even those individuals without an interest in sport, with onlookers from across the globe cheering for their country. Especially during the current Coronavirus pandemic, people can look forward to watching the Olympics from the safety of their homes and witnessing the excellence of those who went the extra mile. After remaining patient and going through many struggles to get to where they are today, the Olympians have the chance to finally showcase their talent and greatness to the world, bringing pride to their motherland.

Overcoming the Struggles

Speaking to Pulse, Swimmer Matthew Abeysinghe shared the personal struggles he had to face in preparing for this event, “I have faced many challenges in the past year and a half or so since COVID-19. I was in New York City with my family when the pandemic first hit. NYC was probably the worst-hit city in the entire world, and the lockdown was extremely intense. Being under lockdown for such an extended period, coupled with the fact that most pools in the United States were closed, made it very tough to find a place to train.”

Despite the challenges that came with the pandemic, he has managed to remain focused on the positives and his goals. “I do feel confident leading up to the Olympics and swimming right now as fast as I ever have, or faster. Before the pandemic, I had swum for 20 years straight with no real break. I do think that the pandemic offered me a much-needed physical and mental break from the sport of swimming,” he added.

It hasn’t been an easy journey for the National Badminton Champion Niluka Karunaratne either. “It’s been a long journey for me and a difficult one. I have gone through a lot of obstacles, challenges, and ups and downs throughout the years,” Niluka said. However, for him, having to travel during this COVID-19 pandemic has been especially hard.

Having been the captain of the Sri Lankan contingent at the London Summer Olympics (2012) and the flag bearer at the Rio Summer Olympics (2016), this would be his third consecutive time at the Olympics. “It’s always a different feeling, a lot of excitement. I am hoping to do something really special this time and bring some wins for my country,” he added.

Athlete Nimali Liyanarachchi who qualified for the 800m Women’s Event said, “in the early days, it was very difficult for me to play sports due to financial difficulties. However, since I joined the Air Force, I managed to do the sport. I feel very happy about being qualified to participate in the Olympics this year. It is a dream for every sports player. I feel beyond happy that I made this dream a reality.” Her story is another true example of the sheer strength of will. Even though life can be unfair and beyond our control, the right attitude certainly helps. Overcoming their own personal hurdles, these Olympians are now filled with excitement and enthusiasm to represent Sri Lanka at the Olympic Games.

The Flavour of Victory

What does it take to taste this victory? Only an Olympian could truly tell! Seventeen years old, Aniqah Gaffoor started swimming at the age of ten years, “I started swimming not as a competitive sport, but more as a necessary life skill. Over time, I fell in love with it and wanted to take it further,” stated Aniqah.

Happy and honoured, she added, “when I got the news that I had been selected to represent Sri Lanka, I could not believe it. I am humbled by the support extended to me and look forward to making Sri Lanka proud.”

Despite her young age, she too has achieved great success, “my greatest achievements have been qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and breaking the Sri Lankan National Record in the 50m and 100m Butterfly events. Representing Sri Lanka at the 2019 World Championships in Korea and the 2019 South Asian Games in Nepal, are two other accomplishments that I am immensely proud of. Especially being part of the National Team that broke the record of the 4X100 medley relay by over 15 seconds,” she added.

The Artistic Gymnast Milka Gehani also shared her thoughts on the soon-to-take-place Olympic Games, “as cliche as it sounds, hard work does pay off. My dreams have become my reality, although it does still feel like a dream. It is a feeling that cannot be described in words. This was the one goal I had since I went for my first gymnastics practice and here I am today!”

South Asia’s Fastest Man, Yupun Abeykoon said, “100% dedication and perseverance are what take us to our dreams. Although the race is completed within 9-10 seconds, the hours, days, weeks, months and years of sweat and blood behind the scene are immeasurable.” Outside of the spotlight, such is the mindset of a winner.

He added, “I watched the 2016 Rio Olympics from home, and it seemed to be such a far-fetched dream. My best at the time was 10.58, but I thought to myself that I want to be at the next Olympics. That day, I changed my Facebook cover photo to that of the country hosting the next Olympics. I promised myself that I will only change this the day I go to the Tokyo Olympics.”

Judoka Chamara Dharmawardana also looks forward to winning. “Participating in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is the result of my hard work and dedication.  After training with great dedication and enthusiasm, my only goal is to win a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I was also chosen for the 2016 Olympics held in Rio and was among the last 16 best athletes, and I’m happy to have achieved 9th place among all the participants in the world,” Dharmawardana said.

Furthermore, Mathilda Karlsson is the first equestrian to represent Sri Lanka in an Olympic Event. She is a top competitor alongside her horse who she bred and cared for her whole life. The unique pair will be participating in Show Jumping at the event. Due to the pandemic, she hasn’t been able to come to Sri Lanka, but she is grateful for the support and hopes to come to her motherland as soon as possible.

Shooter Tehani Egodawela, recognised as the best female rifle shooter at the Sri Lankan Navy Open Shooting Championships, will take part in the 10m Women’s Rifle Shooting at the Olympics. Egodawela has been selected as the best shooter seven times. She is also a Leading Woman Communicator, serving the Sri Lanka Navy.

What’s to Happen

These Olympians have not allowed the challenges and setbacks to weigh them down.  Remaining confident, focused, and true to their passion, they have certainly brought pride to our Island. They are a source of inspiration and deserve every ounce of support from their fellow Sri Lankans.

After a long wait, the excitement is all too real for them, and they are now ready to face the ultimate challenge of the Olympics. Milka added, “at the Games, I hope to break the National Record, and even though COVID-19 interrupted my training several times, I am confident that I can achieve it and look forward to racing again.”

How do they stay focused on their goals? Abeysinghe said, “right now, I am just trying to focus on one meet at a time. This close to a competition, I like to put my blinders on to anything happening outside and just have tunnel vision on the goal ahead. This is one of the things that has given me the ability to remain focused on a sport that I have done for 21 years.”

He also mentioned, “if I am chosen to carry the flag at the Olympic Games, it will be one of the best moments and the biggest honour of my life, and something I will not forget until the day I die.” Them winning at the Olympics would surely be celebrated with pride by all Sri Lankans. Irrespective of this, them being selected is an honour itself, and they can trust that no matter what happens, they will always have support from their nation.