Sprinter Medhaani Jayamanne’s year-or-two stay in the sport has been a part-and-parcel of within and beyond the control odds. But it is the uncontrollable that has taken the toll and outweighs the good and the great. Be it born only with one kidney or her parents not amongst the living, not even a lot of [...]


From self-doubt to self-belief


Medhaani on full swing in her strides - Pic courtesy Sameera Peiris

Sprinter Medhaani Jayamanne’s year-or-two stay in the sport has been a part-and-parcel of within and beyond the control odds. But it is the uncontrollable that has taken the toll and outweighs the good and the great.

Be it born only with one kidney or her parents not amongst the living, not even a lot of athletes would have carried that physical-and-mental scar with them. But she does so, silently.

Junior Jayamanne hails from a sporting family, where Medhaani is continuing the tradition, which her mother, a first generation athlete, started.

“It runs in the family. My mother has also featured in the track. So have my siblings. Along with these, I had also taken a soft spot for the sport,” she said on how she set foot on the synthetic track to the Sunday Times, earlier this week.

What comes as an added advantage is that she is also the niece of a silver medal-winning Olympian, who has also mentored-and-moulded her.

Jayamanne’s current coach, Umanga Surendra, with whom she has been the mentee for two-years and counting, says it is a long-story on how they met.

The Tholangamuwa-based damsel had turned to Umanga, asking him to enroll his student in a school. It is with that Lumbini College, Colombo, became her third school. Despite having it in her DNA and genes, she did not immediately take to athletics at Lumbini. That had prompted the principal to enquire and Umanga too, had to persuade-and-push on the purpose of coming to Colombo and joining Lumbini.

“Daughter (Puthe), I placed you here for sports” he recalled the times he had to remind Jayamanne.

Still, it had taken a month-and-a-half for her to get up-and-running. However, when Umanga’s conversation with the Sunday Times started, he divulged a policy-like quote as a bolt from the blues.

“I, initially though, did not want to accommodate her under my wings. I generally don’t like another athlete’s athlete,” he declared forthrightly.

When she eventually got down to business, she encountered stumbling blocks in running, which was next to impossible. She found it tough to cover her workout and her schedule. Her inborn kidney issue posed a natural hard grind for her.

“I too found her biological block only a few months’ down the line,” Umanga said. That was when, a doctor called – Changa Kulukuraratne – entered Jayamanne’s life, undertook her for checkups and turned out to be a big helping hand.

Courtesy to the combined-and-collective effort of the coach and the medico, they have brought Jayamanne, a long-way now.

Once the coach-student began to work en masse, results began to flow, promptly.

“In short-time, we coached her to clock third-place at the Junior Nationals’ and prior to this, she never was an owner in all-Island. Since her time with me, from 14.1s, she cut it short to 12.75s. The behind-the-scenes of her short improvement was only along – technical – lines as she did not have the capacity for endurance. That time (12.75) saw herself getting selected into the Junior Asian Pool,” Umanga, opened up.

In this day-and-age where all and sundry hack-and-harp the word – talent – and labelling everyone as talented, he makes an exception.

“Talent is not born with everyone, but I did tap her talent along with that she had her genes in her side,” he shared on his early sights of him on her.

Umanga, having represented the country for a decade-and-a-half himself, had not drawn up any big plan for her. He seems to be a coach with certain methods. He tested-and-tried those, including setting the tone with the foundation and that worked for her.

Now, under the custody of Umanga, it’s a work-in-progress and still laying the foundation.

“Why because, she still is not “fully-fit”. We still have not got cracking with fully-fledged training. She did not have much financial aid nor had a sponsor. However, notwithstanding all barriers and obstacles, it all good for her now,” he revealed on the progress.

Where has she got to buck up the most- “Since she’s a patient of an inherent issue, the oxygen generated is less. That hampers endurance, but with training we can resolve that,” he explained.

Jayamanne’s studies and sports

“I start the day with training and then go to school. My school has been a significant source-of-support, so with those I have managed to strike a balance,” Jayamanne said of her routine.

She is head over heels in love with athletics, without thinking-twice, she has prioritized the same.

“However, though, I haven’t forgotten studies, either,” she says in response to which is her priority, with an audible chuckle for an over-the-phone interview.

But, at the same time, she admits, though she is an Advanced Level candidate for this year, her eyes are still inevitably on the prize in athletics.

Tours in 2021

For this pandemic-derailed year alone, she has tasted double delight.

The athlete, turning 19 come August, is after her maiden Indian Inter-State Championship in Punjab.

Touring the neighboring nation as a first-timer and selected only for 4*100m relay at the start, she and her fellow sprinters fared excellently well bagging a second place with a time of 44.55s. A runner-up in relay, specializing in 100 and 200m’s, only then-and-there in India, she was named for 200M, an event where her heart lies.

Icing on the cake was being baked, when she secured second place in 200m with 24.08s.

“I never expected I would get the chance. In the latter’s event, 200M, I ran the way in my desired way,” she said, reflecting on an unexpected tour.

Now, though, there is a bigger and better challenge waiting in Kenya, at the – 2021 World Junior U20 Athletic Championship – next month 17-22.

Her selection call for the – World Junior Athletics (WJA) – has taken her by surprise once again.

“Right at the start when I started training, I developed fatigue in no time. During training, I run only half of 200. Therefore, I participated in the 100M only, initially. But later on, slow-and-steadily with baby steps, I broke the shackles in 200M and bettered my timings, every time. I gradually raised my expectations to 200M. At the same time, not only for the WJA, even for the other tours this year, I never expected I would earn a call up nor did I think I would be in the top 3-4 in the country. I did not even have that self-belief. The pandemic is also partly to be blamed and never thought, I would strike that improvement,” she too opened up.

The above event, also called the World Junior Championships, will be another inaugural event for her and she is devoting blood-sweat-tears at the Sugathadasa and Torrington grounds working for that.

Sugathadasa, in fact, will host the qualification and the sprinter will have the final hurdle to clear for the 100M, to be worked off on Tuesday (27), while she is all set to run in her favourite 200M in Kenya.

Now that the Olympics is talk-of-the-town, she has already locked a date with desire at the sports highest-ever stage. She is an example of the saying- “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” That’s because, her primary goal is to get a gold, failing which, among the stars in the form of any medal at The Olympics.

After pulling off these results, she is beginning to believe in herself. Her road so far has been of troubles, tears and travails. But from now on with time, it could only be- triumphs.

As the Tholangamuwa teenager begins to deep-dive into her career, it’s only positive-to-promising times ahead for Medhaani Jayamanne.

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