Sri Lankan Cinderella blooms from the dumps of tragedy | Sunday Observer

Sri Lankan Cinderella blooms from the dumps of tragedy

18 September, 2022
The many medals won by Yogarasha Nitharshana
The many medals won by Yogarasha Nitharshana

Imagine the trauma of a child in battle-scarred Mullaitivu who loses her father not due to the conflict but because he dumps his wife and three daughters lured by a second marriage.

The psychological effect and the socio-economic impact on many families after the conflict ended is unimaginable but it could be more devastating when your close kin deserts you.

Yogarasha Nitharshana is no ordinary girl. The second child in a family of three, Nithu as she is affectionately known was more at home in the field of play than immersing herself in books. A champion athlete in her province in the short sprints, she set a record in the 400 metres and came sixth in the National School Games representing Puthukkudiyiruppu Central College, Mullaitivu.

Her combative instincts led her to play judo and taekwondo mostly for fun. But it was the sport of boxing that attracted her most tasting unprecedented success in the process.

When she said “I have no father” without any malice I empathize with her being under the assumption that he was dead. When she clarified that he left them in the lurch to marry a second time, it grew into admiration and respect for a destitute family saddled with unimaginable hardship after the travails of a bitter war had just ended.

There seemed no light at the end of the tunnel for the siblings whose mother brought food to the table by selling vegetables grown in their home garden.

It was around the time their father left them in 2012 that Nithu started to learn boxing and swept all before her in inter-school competitions the following year displaying great determination and guile. Spurred by the gold medal she won in the School Girls Boxing meet, she was unbeaten in the 45-46kg weight and also claimed the Best Boxer award at second Girls School Boxing Meet for the West Gate Cup in 2015. Her crowning glory came when she won the Novices and Intermediates Boxing meet conducted by the Boxing Association of Sri Lanka in 2018 as a teenager.

Coming under the wing of Mullaitivu District boxing coach K Nadarajan also known as Valluwan since 2017, Nithu began growing in confidence and asserted herself in the ring to dominate her rivals with her ringcraft and technique. She was second best at the selection trials for the Women’s World Boxing Championship held last year losing to a Police boxer and gave a good account of herself at the Commonwealth Games selection trials against reigning national champion Nadeeka Ranasinghe.

“I will try to become a champion. I want to qualify for the Olympics,” said 22-year-old Nitharshana, who dreams of bringing glory to Sri Lanka at international level. It is no idle dream because she eats, drinks and sleeps boxing. “I love boxing only,” said Nithu who retains the innocence of youth and bubbly character despite the trauma of undergoing a tough life without the guidance and support of a doting father.

Hungry for success, she is willing to walk the extra mile and even gamble with her career, showing great courage in a series of boxing meets in India titled ‘Brave Boxing’ in Chennai and Pondicherry in March, April and June. She achieved the distinction of winning two gold medals in a competition where boxers from India and Italy took part.

She is unfazed by the fact that she has no job at the moment, having passed the GCE (O/L) and studying in the Arts stream but did not sit for the A/L exam. Her elder sister graduated from the Jaffna University while her younger sibling is studying for the O/L exam.

Nithu’s life is just boxing for now, training more than three hours a day in the morning at a centre in Mullaitivu although she is looking for a job. “I am training to win Open meets such as Layton Cup and Clifford Cup,” said the starry-eyed girl who represents the vast untapped potential available in the North.