Achieves first step of her dream | Sunday Observer
Nimali Liyanarachchi

Achieves first step of her dream

25 July, 2021

There are nine athletes who have gone to Tokyo to represent Sri Lanka at the Olympics. Two track and field athletes are among them. One of whom is Nimali Liyanarachchi who runs the 800 metres. The Youth Observer caught up with her before her departure to Tokyo.

Q: Nimali, so you have achieved the first step of your dream?

A: Yes and I am very glad about it.

Q: Did you ever think that you would be able to represent at the Tokyo Olympics?

A: As I could not take part in several meets due to the pandemic I thought I would not be able to go to Tokyo. The other athletes too faced this problem. However, I was lucky to be selected for the summer Olympics.

Q: Did you train by yourself continuously during the lockdown periods?

A: Yes, I trained continuously. But I was not sure of my place in the Sri Lanka team to the Games.

Q: World-class runners are participating in the Olympics. What are your feelings about it?

A: I never worry about their skills. I have a rhythm and I follow that. I will run the race my way and not worry about how others run.

Q: Nimali, You did not reach Olympic qualifying standards. How were you selected?

A: Yes. Like I said earlier I tried hard to sharpen my skills. But I was unable due to the pandemic. However, the International Olympic committee offered the most talented players in the world a chance to participate in the Olympics. I was lucky to win that slot.

Q: What is your world ranking?

A: The ranking changes regularly. Whenever there is a recognised meet there is a change in the rankings. It changes every day. At present I am ranked at No. 56.

Q: What are the medals you have won?

A: In 2015 I won the Bronze medal in the Asian Championship. Then I had a chance to win Gold medals in the South Asian Games in 2016 and Asian Championship in 2017. I also won a Silver medal in the World Military Games in 2019. Those are my international achievements.

Q: You participated in the Indian Athletics Championship recently?

A: Yes, I won a Bronze medal in the 800 metres. After I returned I was quarantined at the Sugathadasa Sports Hotel.

Q: You are one of the athletes to emerge from a rural area. Could you say something about your beginnings?

A: Yes. I am from Sooriyawewa in the Southern Province. But we lived close to the Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces. We did not have facilities when we were children. For example, I started my sports training without an instructor. We ran, threw or jumped as we wished. However, luckily I was chosen for the 800 metre and the 1,500-metre races at the inter-house meet in school.

Q: What happened after that?

A: I came first in both events. I was 14 at that time. That gave me a boost to go further.

Q: What about your family members?

A: We are a farming family and I have two elder brothers and a younger sister. My father is not alive today. After his death my mother carried the family burden on her shoulders. She overcame economic and social problems.

Q: You are very proud of your mother?

A: Of course I am. She is the iron woman in my life. I think she is an Olympic medalist in life. I learned everything from her. When I told her that I wished to undergo sports training she never discouraged me. She gave me her blessings. Although she could not give me every facility she always encouraged me. I reached this position because my mother fed my mind strongly.

Q: Do you hope to get your mother’s blessings?

A: Yes, I plan to meet her and worship at her feet. After that I can achieve the first step of my Olympic dream.

Q: Nimali, what was the school you attended?

A: Wewegama Primary was my school. At that time I did not have plans. I only wanted to participate in sports meets and celebrate victory. It was a very innocent need as a young girl. But after I met Sujith Abeysekara sir he guided me well. He asked me to follow his instructions, which I did and I found success.

Q: You could not participate in the last South Asian Games. But another athlete ran the 800m and won the gold medal. What have you to say?

A: I met with a road accident and was seriously injured just before the South Asian Games. As such I could not participate in the Games. The athlete who won the Gold medal gave me good competition to sharpen my skills. I am very glad about it.

Q: But you could not improve on your previous best timing?

A: Competition will help me improve in the future. After my accident I could not attend training sessions properly and the pandemic affected us badly. That is the main reason for not improving my timings.

Q: Have you made any decision about the future in your personal life?

A: No. I would like to run for many more years. We have planned our family life to suit it. As a woman I have many dreams. But I cannot give up my responsibility as an athlete. I must do it and give the baton to the younger generation. Then they can keep our sports heritage.

Q: You are a national athlete, yet you travel on a motorcycle. In fact you met with the accident while riding the bike. What have you to say?

A: If the Government gives a loan facility for national athletes I can buy a small vehicle.

Q: Final question. What do you hope to do at the Olympics?

A: I do not say that I will definitely win a medal. I am not a fortune teller to predict the future. But I will perform to the best of my ability. I also thank my employer, the Sri Lanka Air Force and the people who have helped to reach this standard in sports.