Peiris the Lankan hope in swimming

NOC Sri Lanka - Crysbro scholarship athlete Nethmi wins historic bronze

Nethmi Ahinsa Poruthotage, an 18 year old whose name will long in the memory of those who witnessed her bronze medal bout today the Commonwealth Games. In the bronze medal bout of the Women’s 57kg she faced up against the experienced Irene Symeonidis of Australia and the commentators were already calling it in favour of the Aussie before the match began. However, the teenager from Sri Lanka showed no fear on the big stage dominating her opponent from the start of the match and scoring 10 straight points to secure the victory with the minimum of fuss.

This medal was historic in more ways than one, with Nethmi being the first wrestler to win a Commonwealth Games medal for Sri Lanka as well as being the youngest in history to win a medal as well. Her story is a glowing example of how far athletes can go given the proper backing with Nethmi being a lucky member of the “Crysbro Next Champ” programme over the past eleven months. The programme, conducted in collaboration with the National Olympic Committee is intended to empower the next generation of young athletes to be the next big Olympic hope for the nation.

The schoolgirl from Welapalla in the Kurunegala district showed her grit and determination in winning a historic medal for Sri Lanka putting her two month training period in Hungary to good use where she got exposure to top level athletes and competition all through the National Olympic Committee. Special mention should also be given to United World Wrestling (UWW) and the Hungary Wrestling Federation for this programme alongside Crysbro who initiated and funded the “Next Champ” initiative. Hopefully, this bronze medal which just be the start of bigger and better things to come and Nethmi has the potential to be star in Sri Lankan sports for a decade or more.

In the other events of the day, both badminton doubles pairs of Sachin Dias/Buwaneka Goonthilleka and Sachin Dias/Thilini Hendahewa had few troubles in making their way to the quarterfinals of their competitions dispatching their Maldivian and South African opponents in straight sets. Niluka Karunaratne bid farewell to the Commonwealth Games following his loss in the Men’s Singles and bringing to close a journey that had started in 2002 and encompassed 6 consecutive Commonwealth Games. Dumindu Abeywickrama also bid farewell to the 2022 games following a loss to Srikanth Kidambi of India

Alexander Stadium was the source of more joy for Sri Lanka through Sarangi Silva who qualified for the Women’s Long jump finals. However, Gayanthika Abeyrathne and Kalinga Kumarage were unable to qualify for the finals of the Women’s 1500m and Men’s 400m respectively while Nilani Rathnayake finished 7th in the Women’s 3000m steeplechase

The squash duo of Shamil Wakeel and Chanithma Sinaly also made their way to the semifinals of the Mixed Doubles Plate competition with a straight sets win over their Barbadian opposition. However, the other mixed doubles pair and the men’s doubles pair were eliminated.

Other than Nethmi, two other wrestlers took part with Suresh Fernando even winning his first bout but undoubtedly the story of the day from the Lankan contingent in Birmingham was the triumph of Nethmi Poruthotage, a shining example of the talent available in Sri Lanka and the heights they can rise to if given the proper backing and opportunities.