Sports News

Vidusha Lakshani: Bringing smile to weeping Negombo

H.D. Vidusha Lakshani and her remarkable feat at the 23rd Asian Athletic Championship in Qatar seemed blurred under the smoke of disaster that spelled the island last week. Vidusha brought the only medal for the country at this competition, a bronze, becoming third in women’s triple jump covering an impressive distance of 13.53 m on Tuesday, 23 April.

Significantly, the 22-year-old emerged from Negombo, one of the worst-affected areas in last week’s brutal Easter Sunday terrorist attacks.

Sharing the sorrow

“All I need is to share with my villagers not the joy of this medal but the sorrow that they’ve undergone,” she told our sister paper Sathi Aga Aruna from Qatar, after the achievement.

Vidusha, who was ably assisted by the Sri Lanka National Olympic Committee (NOC) in her preparations for the event, saved Sri Lanka’s overall image at this biennial showpiece event dominated largely by either China or Japan. The championship was inaugurated in 1973 in Marikina, Philippines. In the last edition, held in Odisha, India in 2017, the host nation topped the table for the first time.

A comeback achievement

Notably, Vidusha missed the bronze medal in 2017 by just 9 cm after a jump of 13.33 m behind third-placed Indian lass N.V. Sheena’s 13.42m. She credits her telling improvement to the NOC and her Cuban coach Luiz Miranda. Thailand’s Parinya Chuaimaroeng (13.72m) and China’s Zeng Rui (13.65m) won the gold and silver medals respectively in women’s ripple jump this year.

Some interested parties asked if she can enter the Olympics next year. The qualification standard for women’s triple jump for the next summer Olympics is 14.32 m, a distant possibility for someone who has recorded her personal best –13.64m – way back in 2017. Yet, this Negombo girl is spurred up than never before due to her somewhat unexpected show and the tragic events that unfolded in her hometown.

The qualification period for “Tokyo 2020” is to end on 29 June 2020.

Friends died

As the Sri Lankan national flag was hoisted to celebrate her feat in Qatar last week, the same flag was flying at half-mast in Sri Lanka. Few of her schoolmates at Newstead Girls College in Negombo had lost their lives in the suicide attack at St. Sebastian’s Church, Katuwapitiya, a mere 10-minute ride away from her school.

The blast was caused by Muslim religious extremists. The Easter Sunday attack that took away the innocent lives of over 250 people was on the Catholics, yet Vidusha was a Buddhist.

She participated in her event with a black band on her right arm as a mark of condolence over the Easter Sunday tragedy that has engulfed Sri Lanka.

“All of us lived together both in my school and in Negombo – Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Buddhists and Catholics. We all lived happily helping each other. But what has happened now?” she lamented.

“I have been to the St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya on numerous occasions. I went there before my Advanced Level examination for prayers. I lit candles there with my friends hoping to do well in the exam.”

Share the grief

Terror of any magnitude cannot withhold bravery emerging from all corners, not aiming at any savagery but towards building a tormented nation, consoling shattered hearts, and strengthening communal harmony. Vidusha, through her athletics, has done something to be joyful about for all the families who’ve lost their loved ones, including a host of small kids.

“My first thought after winning the medal was to go back to my country. That was not to show them the medal that I’ve won. What I want now is to share with them their utmost grief.”

Bahrain stuns the dragon

The 43rd Asian Athletic Championships ended on Wednesday, 24 April with Bahrain edging fancied China with a tally of 11 gold medals, seven silver medals, and four bronze medals. China won nine gold medals, 13 silver medals, and seven bronze medals to be place second.

China has won this championship from 1983 to 2015. That was 17 times out of 23. Japan won the third place this time with five gold medals, four silver medals, and nine bronze medals while India, who was the surprise first last time, became fourth out of 20 participating countries, with three gold medals and seven each of silver and bronze medals.

SL ended up the 17th along with Hong Kong, Jordan, and Oman who also finished with a solitary bronze.

SL women’s 4×400 m relay quartet comprising Nadeesha Ramanayake, Dilshi Kumarasinghe, Nimali Liyanarachchi, and Upamalika Rathnakumari broke a 20-year-old SL record for the event on Wednesday becoming a close fourth behind Japan. The previous record was set at the 1999 South Asian Games held in Nepal by Damayanthi Darsha, Nimmi Soysa, Swarnamali Edirisinghe, and B.C. Chandralatha.

The women’s 200 m championship record set by SL’s Susanthika Jayasinghe in 2002 (22.84 seconds in the championship’s 14th edition held in Colombo) was shattered this time in Qatar by Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser (22.74 seconds).

The most notable failure for SL this time was Nimali Liyanarachchi who ran in 800 m. She had won the gold in the event in the previous Asiad held in Bhubaneswar, India. That time SL was placed ninth out of 23 countries, with a gold medal and four silver medals.

Only Dharsha and Sugath Thilakaratne continue to hold Asian championship records for SL now. Dharsha still owns her women’s 400 m record of 51.05 seconds, set in the 2000 Jakarta Asiad after Thilakaratne set the corresponding men’s record (44.61 seconds) in 1998 in Fukuoka, Japan.