Last week, Sri Lanka’s swimming community was buzzing with excitement as Ramudi Samarakoon, a rising star in the world of swimming, achieved a remarkable feat.
She became the first Sri Lankan swimmer to receive a prestigious dual scholarship from FINA, the world aquatic body that not only recognizes her talent but also opens the door to a thrilling new chapter in her life.
The FINA dual scholarship is no ordinary award. It’s a three-year opportunity that combines advanced swimming training with a bachelor’s degree program at the renowned Corvinus University of Budapest in Hungary.
Swimming experts say it’s a dream come true for any young swimmer, as it offers a chance to excel in both the pool and the classroom. It also includes the privilege of participating in championships hosted by the World Aquatics organization.
Ramudi Samarakoon, a product of Visakha Vidyalaya, was over the moon as she herself expressed her feelings of this incredible achievement. “This scholarship is one of the greatest opportunities I’ve ever received. I’m honored to have been chosen by World Aquatics to pursue my passion for swimming and my studies,” she declared.
However, the road ahead won’t be easy. Balancing the demands of intense swimming training and academic studies are a challenge in itself. But Samarakoon is ready to face it head-on and firmly believes that life is about accepting challenges and overcoming them. She’s prepared to do just that during her time in Hungary.
What makes this scholarship even more special is that it supports not only Samarakoon’s swimming dreams but also her academic aspirations. It also allows her to return to Sri Lanka once a year to participate in events organized by World Aquatics, showcasing the scholarship’s unique perks.
Ramudi’s journey into swimming began when she was just four years old, but it was at the age of seven in 2010 when she officially joined the Killer Whale Aquatics team. Her inspiration came from her older brother Rahul and sister Nisali who were already making waves in national-level swimming.
Her international career took off at the age of 12 when she competed in the eighth Asian Age Group Swimming Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, reaching the final in the 100m Breaststroke event.
At just 13 years old, she represented Sri Lanka at the 12th South Asian Games in 2016 and clinched a Bronze medal in the 50m Breaststroke. In the same year, she won seven medals, including a Gold medal in the 200m Breaststroke, at the South Asian Aquatic Championship in Colombo.
Samarakoon’s journey has seen her become a three-time national champion in 2017, 2019 and 2022. She holds numerous age group national records and has represented Sri Lanka in international events such as the World Junior Aquatic Championships and the World Aquatic Championships.
Her specialty lies in various swimming disciplines, including Breaststroke, Freestyle and Individual Medley. Despite facing injuries and setbacks in her career, she bounced back stronger during the COVID-19 pandemic and achieved remarkable improvements in her performance.
At 21 years old, Ramudi Samarakoon currently holds five national records in Breaststroke events and has set her sights on studying International Relations at Budapest University in Hungary while pursuing her swimming career.
Her journey is a testament to her perseverance and dedication. She competes in multiple events, breaking records and pushing herself to achieve greatness. In 2022, she shattered a 14-year-old national record in the 100m Breaststroke, proving her commitment to excellence.
She attributes much of her success to the rigorous training program at Killer Whale Aquatics and the unwavering support of coach Manoj Abeysinghe whose daily encouragement she acknowledges. “He pushed me to my limits and believed in my potential. He supported me every step of the way and that’s why I’m here today.”
Looking ahead, Ramudi Samarakoon has ambitious dreams as she aims to represent Sri Lanka in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games with a strong desire to secure a Gold medal in the South Asian Games.
Behind her incredible achievements is a story of immense sacrifice. Her parents made numerous sacrifices to support her dreams, redirecting resources towards her training and limiting family outings.
Her training regimen is grueling, with sessions six days a week, both morning and evening. Sundays are her only break from the demanding schedule and her day starts at 4:45 AM with training ending at 8 AM, followed by school and evening practices.
Despite her busy schedule, Ramudi Samarakoon finds solace in other sports and enjoys spending time in nature with her three dogs and cat. Her admiration for swimming legends like Michael Phelps has evolved into self-motivation and she now sees herself as her own role model, recognizing the sacrifices and determination it took to reach her current position.
Her journey is a shining example of what dedication, hard work and unwavering determination can achieve. As she heads to Hungary for her dual scholarship program, she carries with her the hopes and dreams of a nation and her story serves as an inspiration to aspiring athletes everywhere.