Nilani turns up trumps | Sunday Observer

Nilani turns up trumps

Soldiers don’t quit. Nilani Ratnayake after winning the 1500m gold medal (Pix by Sameera Peiris)
Soldiers don’t quit. Nilani Ratnayake after winning the 1500m gold medal (Pix by Sameera Peiris)

At one stage Nilani Ratnayake was a very disappointed athlete before the 13th South Asian Games as her pet event the 3000m steeplechase was not included, but she still bowed out with a gold medal won in the 1500m event and added a second by winning the 5000m.

The 29-year old athlete Ratnayake was not lined up to run the 5000m but was included when marathon winner Hiruni Wijayaratne pulled out from the event.

She was also thrust into the 1500m contest after first choice Nimali Liyanaarachchi was sidelined in the aftermath of a motor accident.

“It was all by chance. I never expected to run in the 1500 or 5000 as my focus was only on the 3000 steeplechase,” recalled Ratnayake.

“My mental fitness was down, but then I was also determined to put my hand up whenever I was called up.”

At the last National athletic championships held at the Sugathadasa Stadium, Ratnayake crashed during the 5000 that was won by Hiruni that put her into the bad books of some officials who wanted her out of the SA Games.

“Some officials made me nervous but I was determined as I always dream of winning medals,” said Ratnayake who is coached by Sajith Jayalal.

She was promoted to the rank of an army Sergeant and her ultimate target is the 3000m steeplechase qualification for the Olympics.

Ratnayake is a product of Ratnapura Sumana Balika and is one of the few athletes who takes pride in recalling her past.

“I come from a rural family with lots of difficulties but never gave up and I know it is still a very hard journey ahead. I am also a soldier and soldiers don’t quit,” she declared.

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