Athletics yearn for an extension to Miranda’s service   – The Island


by Reemus Fernando

Sixteen-year-old Nethmika Madushani Herath who won the long jump event at last week’s Junior Selection Trial was just an average performer four years ago. The youngster first attended Yakunnawa Kanishta Vidyalaya, a school in remote Medagama in Bibile before her notable feats at local Zonal competitions influenced her parents to admit her to Nannapurawa MV where she came under the supervision of Krishantha Kumara.

“She was doing high jump first and we got her to train long jump. Now she is doing long jump, triple jump and the hurdles,” Kumara told The Island after Nethmika produced an impressive 5.73 metres to turn tables on Dananjana Sithmini of Lyceum International, Wattala on her final jump.

Both Kumara and his wife Inoka Sanjeewani, a former Uva Province Champion, are Physical Training Instructors at Nannapurawa MV. They were among a handful of PTIs to have continued training school athletes during the pandemic. The results of their perseverance during these trouble times started to produce rich dividend when she was placed third at the Selection Trial for Under-20 World Championships held earlier this year.

“Due transportation difficulties we came in a hired vehicle for that meet. She did not have enough rest before she started competing and could not display her true potential at that meet. It was the first time in two years that she was competing on a synthetic track,” said Kumara.

Competing in the Under-20 age category in that event, she cleared 5.56 metres to be placed third. The winner Ishara Samanmalee cleared 5.62 metres.

What does her feat of 5.73 metres indicate?

Nethmika is among hundreds of young athletes to have dearly missed competition opportunities during the last two years due to the Covid 19 pandemic. When she last competed at the All Island Schools Games Athletics Championships in 2019 she was placed second in the Under-16 long jump with a leap of 5.51 metres. She was expecting to make amends and win that age category event at the 2020 edition. But with both the 2020 and 2021 seasons lost due to the pandemic, the athletes in the caliber of Nethmika have found the Trial meets organized by Sri Lanka Athletics to be the only opportunities to test their skills.

Nethmika’s winning feat of 5.73 metres on Saturday is one of the best performances in her age category in Sri Lanka. At the last All Island Schools Games Competition (2019) the girls Under-18 long jump gold was won with a feat of 5.62 metres (Sadeepa Handerson). At the last Asian Youth Championships in 2019, the girls’ long jump bronze medal went to a performance of 5.73 metres, the exact performance Nethmika produced.

What was impressive about Nethmika’s performance was the way she consistently cleared the 5.50 metres mark. Her six jumps were measured at 5.58m, 5.55m, 5.48m, 5.38m, 5.58m and 5.73m. In the triple jump she cleared 11.77 metres, the best performance by a female athlete in the Under-18 age category during the last three years.

She is not the first and only athlete to have produced such feats. In fact in the same competition Lyceum athlete Dananjana Sithmini cleared 5.60 metres. There had been numerous athletes who had excelled like Nethmika but many such female athletes had given up ahead of O/L examination.

Nethmika, who is the third in a family of four girls, is a keen student and would want to continue higher education like her two older sisters who are university students. So far her farmer parents have given the necessary support for her to prosper in both studies and sports. But not all scholar athletes of Nannapurawa MV had been lucky. According to Kumara a number of scholar students of Nannapurawa MV who had excelled in other sports had given up at Nethmika’s age to concentrate on studies.

Nethmika is likely to be selected in the team for 2022 Asian Youth Championships. Hopefully that will be an impetus for Nethmika to persevere in both sports and studies.

Name: H.M. Nethmika Madushani Herath

Date of Birth:

4th March 2005

Height:

167cm

Weight:

53kg

Coaches:

M.G. Krishantha Kumara and Inoka Sanjeewani

Disciplines:

Long Jump, Triple Jump, Hurdles

Personal Bests:

Long Jump:

5.73m

Triple jump:

11.77m



Thank you

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