Sports is my life - Nimali Liyanarachchi | Sunday Observer

Sports is my life - Nimali Liyanarachchi

21 February, 2021

Standing five feet three inches tall, Nimali Liyanarachchi, a girl from the South, is the 800-metre national champion in Sri Lanka.

Recently, she was placed 62nd in the world rating for the 800 metres.

The Youth Observer caught up with her to discuss her career.

Q: What do you do these days? Are you taking a break from practises?

A: Free time? It is a pipedream for athletes. Training is always in my mind. I simply cannot stop training and rest at home as sports is my life at present. So, I follow my training schedule rigidly.

Q: Where do you train? In your home town or in Colombo?

A: I train in Nuwara-Eliya, a high altitude area.

Q: A few weeks ago you won your pet event at the national athletics meet at the Sugathdasa Stadium with a timing of 2.03.28 minutes. What do you have to say about it?

A: Although I won the race that was not my best performance. I participated in the race even though I had not fully recovered from my injury. I think I was about 90 percent fit. That is why I could give of my best.

Q: You are a member of the Air Force. Do they look after you well?

A: I am proud to be a member of the Air Force and as an athlete I am lucky as the Air Force fosters my sports career.

Q: The Federation of International Athletics has rated you among the top hundred athletes in the world. What have you to say about it?

A: Considering my performances this year, they rated me as 62nd in the 800 metres. My ambition is to be among the top 30. I train with that goal in mind.

Q: However, you are among the top ten in Asia. Aren’t you proud about it?

A: Yes. But I want to get better results for my country. If I improve my timing I can enter the world arena. That is my dream.

Q: What about your injury?

A: I am still recovering from it. The medical specialist said it has healed around ninety percent. I hope it will not have an effect on my speed.

Q: You were felicitated twice at presidential award ceremonies conducted by the Sports Ministry. What have you to say?

A: It was a dream come true to have won the best athlete award twice. I never thought that Nimali Liyanarachchi would win the presidential award twice but it happened and I am happy about it.

Q: The Sri Lanka 800-metre national record was broken by Gayanthika Abeyrathna in Jaffna in the recent past, after two decades. Any comments?

A: I am very happy about it. Now I have good athletic competition it will help to improve my performance.

Q: Do you believe that you will set up a new Sri Lankan record in soon?

A: I will set up a new record. Now that I have good competition it will help me to achieve my goals.

Q: Covid-19 is the main problem to achieving that target?

A: Covid-19 is indeed a big problem. But, if we protect ourselves we can beat the pandemic easily. I think sports is a good medicine for all.

Q: You need a timing of 01.59.50 minutes to qualify to take part in the Olympics. Do you think you can achieve it?

A: A few weeks ago I came to Colombo hoping to put out my best performance. But I was unable to as I have not fully recovered from my injury. However, I believe I can achieve this timing in another qualifier race.

Q: Did you hear that the 24th Asian Athletic Championship has been cancelled?

A: Yes. The Sri Lanka Athletics Association announced it and it was carried in the media too. It is a loss for our sporting life. But there is nothing we can do about it.

Q: What were your best performances in the international arena?

A: In 2015, I won a Bronze medal in the 800 metres at the Asian Athletics Championship in China. That medal helped me to improve and I won a Gold medal at the Asian Athletics Championship in Bhubaneswar, India in 2017. I also won a Silver medal at the World Military Games in Wuhn in 2019.

In the South Asian Games in Guwathi in 2016, I bagged a Gold and a Silver medal in the relay event.

Q: What is your best time in the 800 metres event?

A: My best timing was in 2017. I finished the event in 2:02.58 minutes.

Q: When were you born?

A: I was born on September 19, 1989. I am now 31.

Q: For how many years have been involved in sports?

A: Around twenty-five years.

Q: Was the 800 metres your pet event from the beginning?

A: No it wasn’t. I started with the 3,000 metres steeplechase as my pet event. I was the national record holder in that event on five occasions but suffered gastro-interstinal problems. So, my coach told me to take up another sports event. That is how I came to take up the 800 metres.

Q: Do you ever regret that you changed your event?

A: I think the change has not affected my sports career badly as I can enter the international arena. I don’t regret that decision.

Q: Are you satisfied with your training facilities?

A: The facilities in Sri Lanka are good and I am satisfied with it. But to face international competition, foreign coaching sessions would be helpful.

Q: Tell me something about your family?

A: We are a farming family in the South. I lost my father’s shelter suddenly in 2002. He died in an accident. From that day onwards the family burdens were on my mother’s shoulders. She cared for my sister and two elder brothers and myself. I started my sports activities in 2004.

Q: In that situation what do you think of your decision to take up athletics?

A: I am happy that I decided to take up athletics.

I cannot think what would have happened to me if not for sports and what my occupation would be now.