Full-blown Dilshi a role model for shunned athletes | Sunday Observer

Full-blown Dilshi a role model for shunned athletes

Dilshi Kumarasinghe
Dilshi Kumarasinghe

Dilshi Kumarasinghe has became the new find in athletics when she shone at the South Asian Games held in Kathmandu, Nepal by winning three gold medals in the 800m, 400m and the 4x400 relay events to become the most successful Sri Lankan athlete at the Games.

The 20-year-old athlete from Digana in Kandy started her athletics in the most trying conditions as coach Susantha Fernando spotted her talent in her early days at Digana Rajawella Dharmasoka Primary school. This school lacked facilities to pursue in education and athletics but Dilshi was determined to build on her athletic career.

“Her rhythm was good but lacked finish but I saw that she had very good strength, good start and good qualities of an athlete,” said Fernando who is the physical education instructor of Wattegama Educational division and head coach of the Walala A. Ratnayake Vidyalaya.

Dilshi got a scholarship at Walala A. Ratnayake Vidyalaya with the support of coach Fernando and that was the turning point of her athletics career.

However, she faced many difficulties with her father being a minor worker and mother working in a garment factory who did everything with their limited earnings to support their only child.

But the principal of Walala A. Ratnayake Vidyalaya, Dhammika Herath and the staff took over the responsibilities to support Dilshi with much success.

Thereafter coach Fernando made arrangements for young Dilshi to join the Army so that she could continue with her career in athletics.

Dilshi was only named as the participant in the 800m event but due to illness of other athletes she was named to participate in the 400m and the 4x400m relay events as well.

“I did not train in the 400m well enough. After the 800m event with a good time my coach told me that I can run a fast 400 as well. I took the big responsibility on my shoulders and am glad I was able to win it too,” said Dilshi.

The two athletes who were favourites in the 400 and 4x400 events were the experienced Nimali Liyanarachchi and Nadeesha Ramanayake. Nimali was left out due to a motorcycle accident and Nadeesha was a victim of dengue fever. This paved the way for Dilshi to enter these two races that brought her gold medals.

Dilshi first earned a name for herself by representing Sri Lanka’s Junior team at an Asian meet in 2014 at the age of 17. But it was in 2018 that she rose to fame by winning triple gold medals (400m, 800m, 4x400m) at the South Asian Junior Atheletic Championship followed by two silver and a bronze at the Asian Junior Championship held in Japan the same year.

She also qualified to run in the 800m and 4x400m at the World Junior Championship in 2018.