FEATURED ATHLETE

NATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE OF SRI LANKA

Parami Wasanthi Maristella

Sri Lanka is known in the world of sports for our stars in cricket. After Susanthika Jayasinghe’s silver medal in Sydney Olympics it is Parami Wasanthi’s Bronze at the Youth Olympic Games will be the talk of the island perhaps until another medal in Tokyo 2020.

Athletics is a sport spread right around the country. So many national tournaments each year see many young Lankans rise to the big stage. The leap from schools to the national level is pretty straight forward for these athletes but the next step is huge, sometimes impossible. When it comes to Commonwealth, Olympic or any other international competition in Asia, it is very rare that we see the Sri Lankan flag been hoisted in the stage. It’s certainly not the lack of talent perhaps the lack of administration, coaching, knowledge and conditioning and so forth.

Getting back to Parami, she became the first ever Sri Lankan to win a Youth Olympic Medal by taking the Bronze in the 2000m steeple chase at the 3rd Youth Olympic Games. That’s the big picture but the lead up to this achievement has not been very rigid for young Parami.

Born to a fishing family in Chilaw, Parami is the youngest in a family of five. Her older sister Nishanthi Dilhani was the first to shine in Athletics. She was winning medals in all island tournaments while young Parami would just race her sister in the beach. This laid the foundation to a flourishing career at a young age for Parami. Nishanthi however, gave up her athletic career to excel in her academic studies.

Young steeplechaser was noticed and brought to light thanks to Coach Janith Jayasinghe. Janith first saw Parami when she was in Ambakadawila Central College. He quickly identified the potential in her and drafted her to Kuliyapitiya Central College.

Coach Janith found a gem in Parami and the rest is history. She is now a holder of a Silver Medal at Children of Asia International Sports Games,a Gold Medal at Junior Asian Championship and a prestigious Bronze Medal at Youth Olympic Games. All of these achievements were brought to life with minimum facilities and that’s what makes Parami a true champion.

Her first international event was the 6th Children of Asia International Sports Games where she won the Silver, wearing a few strappings to protect her toes. The young steeple chaser speaks so highly of her coach Janith. “I dreamt this dream with JanithSir. He is my coach. I’m here thanks to Janith Sir.” Those were her words after winning the Bronze.

Coach Janith made a cross country race track in a farm in Kowluwela with his own money and donations which Parami received from well-wishers. She trained there twice a week. In addition to that she trained twice a day, six days a week at the Sugathadasa stadium. The sheer enthusiasm and determination of both Coach Janith and Parami were commendable.

In 2017, Parami was diagnosed with Hemoglobin Deficiency. As the coach it was upto Janith to decide what to do with her medical condition. Janith first changed her events to 100m and 400m hurdles where she won medals in the national arena. She also was a member of the U17 Girls National Rugby team which toured Dubai for the Asian U17 7’s Championship. He did all that with the intention of building up Parami’s self-confidence, despite her medical state. Luckily for Parami, her medical state improved and Coach Janith was able to pave her path to glory at the Youth Olympic Games.

“To win this medal, we had to sacrifice a lot, both me and my athlete Parami Wasanthi. She is a really talented athlete. I was able to identify her talents. A lot of people helped us along our journey and I would like to humbly thank and praise them.” Those were coach Janith’s words after the win. He also mentioned their determination to bring more glory in the coming years.

Parami is indeed a young girl with so much potential. She ended an international medal drought which lasted a decade with her first ever Youth Olympic Medal. She also entered an elite group of Olympic medalists - Duncan White and Susanthika Jayasinghe.

Parami has much to gain and with all the support she could get from the authorities and all Lankans, she would definitely go on to make our country proud.