Merely two decades after her father put a pair of boxing gloves to her hands for the first time, Nelka Shiromala will go down in history as the first female technical official ever, to represent Sri Lanka at an Olympics. The 45-year-old mother of a young daughter, today realises her father’s dream, yet with a [...]


Nelka, living her father’s dream


Merely two decades after her father put a pair of boxing gloves to her hands for the first time, Nelka Shiromala will go down in history as the first female technical official ever, to represent Sri Lanka at an Olympics. The 45-year-old mother of a young daughter, today realises her father’s dream, yet with a heavy heart, after her mentor and father, Thambu Sampath passed away in June. Yet, she is determined as ever to walk on the path he paved her in boxing.

Through her qualifications and experience gained as a pugilist and the mentorship of her father, a former champion boxer, an athlete, a rugby player and a proud Naval officer, Shiromala becomes Sri Lanka’s first ever woman to officiate inside the boxing ring, a place predominantly controlled by men, at the highest level. She also became the first ever to win an ABA Novices meet for women. Shiromala competed at the Boxing Nationals only to claim the runner-up title on five consecutive occasions while also being conferred as the Best Loser.

Thereafter her career as a boxer took a turn. This was when Shiromala had to commit to her profession as a police officer, and engage in foreign missions. Upon returning after one of the overseas trips, Shiromala’s interest in bouts in the ring declined, yet her father’s words when he put the gloves on Shiromala in 2001, always echoed her mind.

With great passion in pursuing a career beyond in boxing, Shiromala changed her path and became an official, thus becoming one of the four women drafted to officiate in 2009, as the first group. Two years later she earned the Level I qualification and made her international debut at Indonesia President’s Cup.

Her curiosity and interest only grew, the more she engaged in taking the whole control inside the ring as an official, a discipline she mastered from her school as a youngster and later from Sri Lanka Police.

Six months later Shiromala was promoted as a Level II referee while serving at the London Olympic Trials, and earned a reputation as one of the most respected female officials in the international circuit.

In 2013 Shiromala qualified herself as a Level III referee, thus becoming the first female from South Asia and South East Asia. Ever since Shiromala has become an integral part of international boxing events including World Combat Games, Women’s World Championship 2014, Asian Championship 2015.

Her improving credentials only earned her more reputation, as she had the distinctive honour of qualifying as a World Series of Boxing (WSB) referee.

Being the eldest of four daughters and the mischievous out of the lot, Shiromala was the only hope her father saw as the one who could continue his boxing dreams. But, her father, the former boxing coach of Sri Lanka Navy for over a decade, decided to enroll Shiromala to Rippon Girls’ School in Galle, also the school her mother attended, while her younger sisters were attending girls’ schools in Colombo.

She was boarded through her school life at the convent in Galle. The discipline and efficiency practiced at Rippon Girls’ School shaped up Shiromala’s life as a budding youngster, not only in academics, but also in sports activities. She was a school prefect, who earned a reputation as a versatile athlete. She stood out in athletics, badminton, netball, swimming and volleyball and was also the school’s games captain during her last couple of years.

With great leadership and swift decision-making skills, Shiromala joined Sri Lanka Police in 1997 as a Sub Inspector. He first appointment was in Vavuniya, during the height of the 30-year long civil war, and during the past 24 years, she has served in many divisions, including the Criminal Investigative Division, and as acting OIC of Kollupitiya police station. Presently she is serving as a Chief Inspector at Bureau for Prevention of Abuse of Women and Children.

It was during her early days at Sri Lanka Police, in 2011, that Shiromala’s father made her enter the ring at the Welisara Naval facility boxing ring, when he was the coach of Navy. Even during her first couple of years at Police, Shiromala had shown her prowess in shooting sports and became their best shooter in 1997 and 1998. By today she has won honours in Police for boxing, badminton and netball.

With all credentials falling in line to became the best in what she engages in, comes the combination of her grit, the motivation and mentorship of her father, the discipline and upbringing incurred from her school, Rippon Girls’ School and the dignity, pride and efficiency adhered from Sri Lanka Police. Over the last decade, she is well backed by her husband, Chandana Wikcrmanayake, who happens to be her batch-mate in Police, and currently a Chief Inspector attached to the Special Task Force. Their only daughter, Minuli, is still 11-years of age, but the parents are open about their offspring’s ambitions.

Shiromala’s achievement today, of being the first Sri Lankan boxing referee and judge, is a testament of what her father, a Tamil by birth, made great efforts to prove – a world without discrimination and respect to true potential. Shiromala has gone a few steps further, as an unbiased law enforcement officer who respects human values and a well respected boxing judge, with the ability to easily handle any gruelling bout and even tough heavyweight pugilists.

When she returns from Tokyo Olympics, Shiromala may come with a wealth of knowledge and a busy schedule ahead in world boxing. And her professional commitments is another area she takes great pride to be engaged with. Either way, she has earned stardom, not only in Sri Lanka, but around the world for her great accomplishment, but for her it’s simply all about doing the right thing with commitment.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.