New Sri Lankan sprint queen under scrutiny in the Caribbean | Sunday Observer

New Sri Lankan sprint queen under scrutiny in the Caribbean

8 January, 2023

Sri Lanka’s reigning sprint queen Amasha de Silva is confident of aiming for a medal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China this year as she is currently being tried and tested in the Caribbean where there is no shortage of fast women.

The postponement of the 2022 quadrennial event to this year has come as a blessing in disguise for the 23-year-old Sri Lankan lass who is undergoing training in Trinidad & Tobago since last August.

“The training methods are slightly different. I learned new things and I am taking it step by step. We are in the preparation period where the intensity is more,” said the three-time national champion who has come under the wing of Ian Carter.

She has virtually received personal attention since it is off season for Trinidad’s national athletes and the majority of them train in the United States.

“I am training alone. The focus is on me and they are testing my performance. The coaches are friendly. I feel I am starting to improve and getting better every day with power training in the gym and other drills,” said Amasha who is on her maiden overseas training stint sponsored by the National Olympic Committee.

“My goal is a medal at the Asian Games,” said Amasha whose personal best in the 100 metres is 11.55 seconds whereas the qualification for the Games is 11.40. Her personal best in the 200m is 24.05.

A product of Swarnamalee Balika Vidyalaya, Kandy, her career peaked in 2018 winning the 100-200m double at the South Asian Junior Athletic Championship held in Colombo, setting a record of 11.92 in the 100m heats in addition to winning gold medals with the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams. She went on to win silver medals at the 18th Asian Junior Athletics Championships in Japan clocking 11.71 (100m) and 24.47 (200m). She also represented Sri Lanka at the World Under-20 Athletic Championship in Finland advancing to the semifinals after being placed fifth in one of the heats.

Silver medallist in the 100m and 4x100m relay at the 60th National Inter-State Senior Athletics Championships in Patiala, India last year, she has been consistent since winning her maiden national title in December 2020. Silver medallist in the 100m at the 2019 Nationals, she anchored Sri Lanka’s gold medal winning 4x100m women’s relay team at the 2019 Kathmandu Games but was one of two athletes who were stricken by dengue while the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic also put her career on hold.

“I took a break from athletics and rested to recover after contracting dengue,” said Amasha who joined the Army Women’s Volunteer Corps in October 2019. Her career has also been plagued by a back injury which is been carefully monitored during her training in Trinidad where she was joined by her coach Sanjeewa Weerakkody for a month.

Weerakkody is scientifically preparing Amasha not only for the Asian Games but also for the 2024 Paris Olympics. He was overwhelmed by the wealth of knowledge gained from discussions with coaches like Carter who is Athletic Director at Trinidad Universities and also of the National Youth pool.

“Knowledge sharing is important. Our coaching knowledge is inadequate. What we don’t know we should tell. If we say we don’t know only, others will tell. Coaching is science-based and having the ability to adapt,” said Weerakkody who is Assistant Director of Physical Education and Sports in the Kandy education zone and has been coaching since 2001.

He got familiar with acceleration drills by strengthening body during the first 20 or 30 metres and proper breathing. Amasha has also been working more on gluteal muscle exercises to improve hip thrust and strength needed for a sprinter.

“Her acceleration skills have improved because of these drills,” acknowledged Weerakkody who is confident Amasha can qualify for the Olympics from Asian competitions next year.

“I will train hard and do my best to win a medal at the Asian Games,” said Amasha whose inspiration is Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Yupun Abeykoon in addition to Olympic stars Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and American Allyson Felix as her role models in the sport.

At the pace she is progressing Amasha could also come within sniffing distance of Olympic medallist Susanthika Jayasinghe’s national 100m record of 11.15 in the future. (AO)