Mint Sprint Prodigy Nadeeshani Sets Her Sights On An Asian Junior Medal

“If you ask any aspiring athlete i don’t think there’ll be many answers. When you pick up the boots what you dream is to represent your country at an Olympic games. I’m no exception to that. Having said that i like to set targets within my sights for the time being. The World junior championships and the Asian junior championships are coming up and bringing an Asian medal is the short term goal I’m motivating myself to.”

Harry Henry Henderson and Ranjani Henderson. Do those names ring a bell?

Being the daughter of an illustrious athletics duo may add a chip on the shoulders which the attention never evades but the advantages can far exceed those intricacies of suspicious observations. Perks in Guidance, how to look after physically and the intestinal fortitude may be some parts of a diverse make-up but Nadeeshani’s words about the goals tells that she has latched on to the ‘positives’ in mapping her career.

“It’s a valuable asset not all the athletes can brag about. Being Athletes, i have wealth of experience at home to plan my career ahead. They encourage me a lot and one of them makes sure they attend my practices daily so life’s a lot easier when you have parents who have travelled this road before.” She has no intentions of blotting out from the quiet pride that brings with the priviledge.

She came into the microscopes of athletics lovers when she broke the decade long under 18, 400 metres record of Tania Van Here and she reveals her road to that has been as lengthy as Van Here’s record was.

“Sports is in my blood. I first went to Dunugaha Ranasinghe Maha Vidyalaya and there i got selected to the Western Province meet and won all my events. Then i left for Ave Maria convent in Negombo and repeated the feats comfortably at John Tarbert meets. Thereafter i met Sunil sir and he’s the one who worked out a scholarship in Gateway College.”

Then reputed coach Sunil Gunawardena took Nadeeshani under his wings and she only reserves praise for him. “It’s because of sir that i’m here. When i met him my timing was not anywhere close what it is now. Sunil sir is who guided me to realize my potential. And i can’t forget Bhadra miss, Derwin sir Nayanthi Kumari miss and Gateway too”

A girl being linked or seen with dancing shoes on isn’t an eye-brow raising sight but it certainly has the scoop to if it’s in a running track. “It’s true. I didn’t possess the right techniques back then. It was more for the love of the game than to do everything the right way when i started. Sunil sir is the one who cut those mistakes gradually without me knowing about it. Those techniques, power and strength methods were all introduced to me by him.” She smiles for the dancing reference which was seen as a massive flow in her game before explaining that those belong to an old fangled era.

She literally was a lone ranger in her events at the recently finished ISAC 2012 meet where she broke three records. “I’m the games captain of Gateway. I wasn’t aiming for records it came to me. There was not much competition in all my pet events but as the captain i thought i should do something to bring glory to my school. And the records came along the way.”

What she has to say about the critics qualms that she had Athletics in the back burner due to the studies? “I had my A/Ls so i had to curtail the training schedule slightly in order to prepare for the exam. I postponed the next segment of the exam to January because i have the Asian junior championships coming up in June. So it’s not like i have given my priority to studies alone.” Just like that she clears the air around the rumor mill.

Her thoughts about the 400 metre dash being one of the most competitive races around. “Yes it is very competitive. Chandrika akka is the best 400m female runner in the country and her timing is around the 52 second mark. But there after there’s a crystal clear gap between she and next group which includes me. Few have come up in the last year all hovering around 55 second mark and it’s a challenge to everyone to work up our speeds and get into those early 50s. It’s a challenge that i think everyone relishes and that one would like to get there first.The trial is coming up and currently i have the best timing in 400m. So i’m very confident on the face of it.”

Most athletes have a role model where they take inspiration from. So who does Nadeeshani models her life around? To which she has an interesting answer.“There are so many but Wilma Rudolph is special because at the age of four she had polio and it was a very big problem for her development and her doctor said that she can’t walk but however Wilma’s doctor was right. She wasn’t born to walk. She was born to run. At the end she qualified for 1956 olympics and in 1960 won three gold medals. So i like her and when i’m thinking about it inspires me and gives me wings”

If she has half of the determination and will to thwart obstacles of Wilma, it goes without saying that Sri Lanka has a gem in the making to pin their hopes on.

Fact File

Name- Nadeeshani Henry Henderson

Age- 18 years

School- Dunagaha Ranasinghe Maha Vidyalala, Ave Maria Convent, Gateway College

Primary Events- 100m, 200m, 400m

Personal bests-

100m- 12.37 seconds

200m- 25.30 seconds

400m- 55.60 seconds

Head Coach-Sunil Gunawardena

Coach- Bhadra Gunawardena

Personal Achievements-

2008 Western Province 100m (G), 200m (G), 400m (G) under 17 best female athlete

2009 Youth Asian Games trials-1st place 2010 Junior Nationals 400m (G) with a new record

National Sports Festival 400m (B)

2011 All Island best female Athlete 400m (G) with a new meet record

Participated in the Asian Youth Games 2009 in Singapore

Participated in the Asian Junior Athletics Championships 2010 in Vietnam

ISAC 2012- 100m (G), 200m (G), 400m (G) all with new meet records


Spinning Into Contention Down under

There’s a run-of-the-mill misconception that breeze in when Australian administrators deem it feasible to summon the islanders to slot in for the summer triangular. Sri Lankans have had hang outs in Australia so much that one may not find excruciating to obtain the nationality there or be a guide to a tourist but the general consensus hasn’t polished yet. New captain Mahela Jayawardena put it in a nutshell.

“Grounds in Australia tend to favour the fast bowlers.”

Therein lays the conundrum. Track back and most of the nights the champagne bottles were opened from a Sri Lankan hand centered around a tale of a spinner. And selectors continue to stay in the dark over attention to detail. Craig McDermott’s full bullish line of attack insinuated the psyche of Indians as the series culminated and that’s not an ideal pitcher to pour water in as it has a hole underneath. No way are pace friendly only surfaces be the sight of existence and tweakers will play a telling part fluctuating a team’s fortunes. Not only the restaurants in Sydney and Adelaide or Melbourne is favourable for Asians as pitches will offer turn, bounce and free flowing stroke play. Brisbane, Hobart and Perth is a whole new ball game altogether and even then bounce is a critical outcome to factor in.

Sri Lanka has packed its contingent with four fast bowlers and three pace all rounders while reserving just two spots for the undermined craft in Rangana Herath and Sachithra Senanayake. There are coliseums where you are bound to play two spinners and if one of them is out of form, it’ll come back to haunt them. It was only twelve months ago that Suraj Randiv’s-who would have been the ideal back for up front partnership of Herath and Senanayake- guide and disconcerting bounce got the better of Australians and the way he has been treated is-if not a raw deal-unfair.

If Randiv’s condition is that Angelo Mathews tracks down himself in a similar brittle town, the disparity being within the team. His form lately has not added up to the sum of its parts, since the World Cup it’s been all downhill to him whether it was the decisions he took in the middle in the heat of the battle or runs and wickets columns. Mahela was quick to defend his lackey. “It’s not right if one says in three months we should drop the brightest prospect we had six months ago. A player doesn’t become bad overnight.”

Conversely to that he batted like a rabbit caught in headlines right? “We used him for different strategies in different games. With the new power play rule, we decided to use a bowler in that period. Because of that the amount of overs he had to play reduced even more. The best example is Dilshan himself, he played at No6 for so many years and look where he is now. So it’s not ideal to quickly judge players who play in these tricky positions down the order. Angelo is one of the key members of our squad and we should encourage him to get back without looking down on him.”

Among the changes are the Farveez Maharoof’s third coming at the expense of Kosala Kulasekara who’s highlights so far in a skeletal international career has to be crossing the dreaded mark of the lowest score in Paarl and be the cynical victim of Dilshan’s blunder to deliver that fateful over – “Kosala played a test match in Dubai. Then when the test matches were underway in South Africa there was consideration to bring back Maharoof for the onedayers. But Dilshan and the selectors had a chat and decided that he didn’t get enough opportunities to prove himself. So he came to South Africa as part of the ODI squad and played the first three ODIs.”
So is that it? Maharoof topped the charts in batting in the domestic matches played at home as an opener; and there’s more window for Mahela to open before former Sri Lanka under 19 leaders does as things currently stand.

Do the captain immune to that?” I agree. But Maharoof is a cricketer we have invested in first for the 2007 World Cup. He was an under 19 captain and was considered as our premier all rounder at that time. I won’t say whether Maharoof will play or not but about this is a decision we took it sorely to strengthen the team knowing the tough challenge we are to face in Australia.” May be its a way of poking Mathews into alert mode from his comfortable perch. Whatever way it works.

The brickbats were hurled at Dilshan during the fag end of his reign for the lack of runs he accumulated. If that was a boomerang in the path of team’s progression, the latest developments isn’t an improvement either. In fact, it’s amplification. Forget about the vice captain, the new captain is a queasy patient in dire need of an injection. Only good thing is although the runs have dried up his words hasn’t.

So what will an out of form ODI skipper and South African called Graham Ford offer to the team that is not available currently Mahela? “Which might be a good surprise.” It had better be.

Photos courtesy- AP-Eranga Jayawardena