Sithara : dreams of representing Sri Lanka at the Asian Games | Sunday Observer

Sithara : dreams of representing Sri Lanka at the Asian Games

17 January, 2021

Youth Observer conducted an online interview with her recently.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: Sithara, at what age did you start sports activities?

A: My parents put me in a gymnastic class when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I was so full of energy as a child (I still am), and I did gymnastics until I was in Grade 5. I then did Karate and competed nationally until I graduated from high school, and did competitive swimming for a few years as well. I started running track when I was in Grade 7 and was started pole vaulting while in Grade 9. My background helped me develop the foundation I needed to break records at high school, attend State competitions and even break the Sri Lanka national record.

Q: What made you select pole vaulting?

A: I was a high jumper and sprinter in middle school, but because I was much shorter than my competitors, I thought I wouldn’t excel. Pole vaulting is an event where height does not matter. It is your power to weight ratio that is much more important. While I’m only 5’1”, I’ve been able to clear 11’6” in competitions and even higher during practises.

Q: Do you feel any fear when vaulting?

A: Of course! pole vaulting is an inherently dangerous sport that puts tremendous pressure and stress on the body. For me, fear of injury is greater than the fear of falling.

Q: What inspired you to take up this event?

A: When I decided to try the pole vault, I had no idea what the event was. Coaches in high school told me to try it because of my background in gymnastics and high jump. After my first practise session, I was hooked. I watched videos of Olympic pole vaulters, and was amazed at the technique, speed, and heights they achieved. As a small-made person, I love the free fall from a high place down onto the safety of the mats. It’s such a thrill.

Q: Are other members of your family involved in sports?

A: My father, Buddika, is a marathon runner, and my father’s brother, Kapila, used to be a lifeguard. My younger brother, Nadun, is a volleyball player!

Q: What is your ambition in sports?

A: Sports activities are a stress reliever for me, being active and moving around makes me appreciate what my body is capable of. I take part in sports to break boundaries and inspire those around me.

Q: Would you like to represent your motherland (Sri Lanka) in the future?

A: I would love to, given the opportunity to train under a coach who understands me. I used to compete at the NCAA Division 1 level at my university before Covid, but I ultimately decided that my plans to graduate early were more important. I didn’t really have a coach in high school until my last year when I began training with the men’s team, so I am used to training independently and coaching myself as well as my younger female teammates.

When I got to college level, everything became different. The coach at my university didn’t understand me, and neither did my teammates. It was a dream of mine to represent Sri Lanka at the Asian Games, and it was a difficult decision to leave the university team. Given the proper equipment, facilities and coach, I would absolutely love to represent Sri Lanka, and break more records!

Q: Do you plan to get involved in sports after you complete your studies?

A: Currently, I am a Certified Personal Trainer, a coach who helps others reach their fitness goals, such as losing weight or gaining muscle. I love teaching and helping people, so this is a job I’d like to do as long as I can.

Q: Do you have a role model in your sports life?

A: There are many female pole vaulters who inspire me, but Sandi Morris is my favourite. I admire her ability to overcome challenges creatively. When the pandemic started, Sandi Morris and her father built a pole vault pit and runway in their backyard, so she would be able to practice. She would even host small group sessions to teach aspiring pole vaulters.

Q: Have you met with success in other sports activities?

A: I have won many gold medals in gymnastics, swimming and karate at the state as well as at the national level. I also practice yoga and meditation as a hobby.

Q: Who do you hope to become in the future?

A: I’m an Entrepreneurship and Business Management double major at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. I’m not only a student and a personal trainer but also an entrepreneur. My current business venture is a corporation called “Eleadora”, a beauty subscription box where customers receive makeup samples from minority-owned small businesses at their doorstep. I have many other big business ideas and a patented invention that I plan to pursue, and hope to one day do business in Sri Lanka as well.