Mallika: the grand old lady of athletics | Sunday Observer

Mallika: the grand old lady of athletics

28 March, 2021
Mallika Sachithananda (right) in one of her race walks
Mallika Sachithananda (right) in one of her race walks

Even at the age of 84 years old this woman keeps running and walking in athletic meets for veterans held around the world. She is the ever green Mallika Sachithananda who has already won many medals which keeps her desire to run and bring glory and honour to Sri Lanka.

To date she has won the highest number of medals with over 60 gold, 20 silver and 22 bronze medals at international Masters Athletic meets.

The most treasured memory she wants to keep on record is the Asian record she holds in the 400 metres for those between the age of 55 and 59 for women.

She established this record at the Asian Masters Athletic Championship held in 1994 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Her time at the distance was one minute, 07.57 seconds which stands unbroken for over 25 years now.

Another proud record that is still to be broken is in the 5 kms walk race she established at the 15th Asian meet held in India in 2008.

Mallika is so versatile that she can run in short and long distance events. She has participated in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 5000m and even in the half marathon and full marathon. She takes part and won medals in race walk events held for women of her age. She won the first race walking championship held in Sri Lanka organized by the Ministry of Sports in 1976. This event varies from 5 to 20 km distances.

During her school days at Veyangoda Central, Mallika took a great interest in athletics from 1951 and contested the short distance races. She emerged as the champion athlete in the under-16 category in 1952 and continued to win in circuit meets

After leaving school she joined the Telecommunications Department and continued winning at the State Services Athletic Championships and Road Races without a break. She married another athlete of fame during that time, K. Sachithananda, who took to administration in the sport after competitive running.

Mallika rose to national level in the middle distance events, winning the women’s 1500m National title with a new Sri Lanka record in 1975. She also represented Sri Lanka at the Indo-Ceylon athletic meet the same year.

Mallika engraved her name as the brightest star at the 14th Asian Masters Athletic Championship held in Bangalore, India in November 2006 and won four gold medals in the 400, 800, 1500 and the 5 km race walk events.

She also brought glory to Sri Lanka winning three gold, three silver and a bronze medal at the World Masters’ Games held in Denmark in 1989. The gold medals were won in the 400m, 800, and 1500m races, the three silver medals in the 5000 and 5000 race walk and the 8 kms cross country race and the bronze in the 10,000 race.

At her latest participation at the Asian Masters in Kuching, Malaysia she won a gold medal in the 10 km road race for women over 80 years. She won a silver in the 400m, a bronze in the 200 and also participated in the 5000 race walk, 100 and 80 metres and finished fourth.

For a veteran athlete who has achieved so much and brought glory and honour to Sri Lanka she deserves a great deal of awards and respect from the government and people of this country.