Rohini’s success story | Sunday Observer

Rohini’s success story

Rohini Jayawardena
Rohini Jayawardena

World Masters Games gold medalist Rohini Jayawardena said she started playing badminton to ‘kill time’ after dropping her only daughter at St. Bridget’s Convent Montessori a couple of decades ago.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer from Auckland, New Zealand she said it was her late husband Kalika Jayawardena who had given her all encouragement at the early stages of her badminton career. “He fully supported me after I took to badminton to spend time after dropping my daughter a school in the mornings. He used to drop me for training, then I started loving the sport. Ultimately it became my passion,” she said after her triumph.

Her husband Jayawardena, son of former Minister M.D.H. Jayawardena, had died 17 years ago at the age of 55. But badminton remained her passion. “Unfortunately, he met with an untimely death and was not there to witness my success. But he was my mentor when I took to the sport as a pastime.Unfortunately, he is not there to share my success,” she said.

Rohini, a former over 40 veteran’s champion at Ariyadasa de Silva tournament, had an outstanding performance at the World Masters Games Women’s over 70 singles tournament.

Having narrowly lost the first set, she had to stage a magnificent comeback to win the semi final game. She fought back courageously to beat Cathey Whitaker of New Zealand 19/21, 21/15, 21/8 in the semi finals to make it to Friday’s final. Her opponent in the final was Gay Bloxham, also from the host country. Yet, Rohini was able to overcome Bloxham’s home advantage to win the final in style with a memorable straight sets victory 21-10, 21-16 to secure the gold medal in women’s singles over 70 category. Rohini was a household name at Otters AC in Veteran’s badminton.

Age has never been a barrier for ‘mentally young’ Rohini to do her regular workouts and train hard for the big event. “It was Rohan de Silva, Managing Director of McLarens who gave all encouragement and motivated me for this event. I am happy that I could live up to expectations and make my country proud,” she said.

Most importantly, it was an extraordinary feat by Rohini who had never indulged in badminton during her school career at St. Bridget’s Convent, Colombo 7. But now, her pastime has made her a champion with a gold medal at world level.

Asked about her future plans, Rohini said it’s too early to predict whether she would be able to compete at the next World Masters Games which are being held once in four years. “I don’t know whether I would live to compete once again at the World Masters Games. But I would like to play in good competition and bring honour,” she said.

Over 25,000 competitors took part at the World Masters Games. Its badminton competition was worked off at Auckland Badminton Centre, located 4km south of Auckland Central and at North Harbour Badminton Centre, located just over 12km north of Auckland Central.

The ten-day sporting extravaganza for masters, which included 28 sports at 48 venues, concluded during the weekend.

The colourful closing ceremony, a special occasion honouring the memories and companionship created during the Games at the Entertainment Hub at Queen’s Wharf, downtown Auckland, featured the handing over of the organising responsibilities to the next host of the Summer World Masters Games in 2021 to Kansai region in Japan.It was great for Rohini to make Sri Lanka proud at the world’s largest multi-sport event for masters, held every four years - the pinnacle sporting event for Masters’ competitors worldwide. In supporting the Olympic Games ethos of ‘sport for all’, the goal of the World Masters Games is to encourage participation in sport throughout life.

Once in every four years, the International Masters Games Association, the representative body of masters’ sport worldwide, grants to one special city the rights to host the next Games. The first ever Games were held in Toronto, Canada in 1985. Since then seven other cities have embraced the global event so far.