Sri Lanka’s youngest medalist in Commonwealth Games history, 18-year-old Nethmi Hansika Fernando is determined to bring the country more accolades to the international stage following her historic feat at Birmingham’s Coventry Arena.
Welpalla student Sangarathana Maha Vidyalaya, Kurunegala overpowered an opponent 12 years her senior, Australia’s Irene Symeonidis, to win a historic bronze medal for Sri Lanka in the women’s 57kg freestyle event at the XXII Commonwealth Games. It was Sri Lanka’s fourth medal at the Games. Paralympian Palitha Bandara (silver), Dilanka Kumara (bronze) and Yupun Abeykoon (bronze) are the other medalists from Sri Lanka.
“My coach Suranga Kumara told me to fight like the Indian (Anshu Malik) fought against me in the semi-finals,” said Nethmi who recovered after being upgraded to win the clash for the bronze medal against the tough Australian. Competing in her first senior international competition since making her debut at the 2021 World Junior Championship in Russia where she went the distance against Italian and Kyrgyz opponents, Nethmi was momentarily stunned after her loss to the eventual silver medalist in her weight category.
“I don’t know what happened against the Indian wrestler. Maybe she had more experience than me. Everything I did in training came to mind in semi -final. I was determined not to let slip a medal that was within my reach. I was determined to win for my country,” said Nethmi, the second child in a family of four from Pannala who started the sport thanks to her Sri Lankan friend and teammate Chamodya Madumali Vithanage who competed in the Women’s Freestyle 53kg – Nordic event at the Games.The rest, as they say, is history.
After her trainer Suranga Kumara got permission from her parents to wrestle, she swept it all before her in district, provincial and national level competitions by being voted best performer in 2019. “I won gold medals after only two months of training. My coach took me to competitions across the country to show me how to fight. Since then, I haven’t allowed a point in a six-minute game against any opponent,” she said proudly.
Even during her two-month training stint before the Commonwealth Games in Hungary where she learned new techniques and tactics, she prevailed over the juniors and also struggled with the seniors to hone her skills.
“I’ve always been confident of winning a medal at the Commonwealth Games. I wanted to win the gold medal but after losing to the Indians I was even more determined to win for my country. I remembered years of tug of war even with blisters on my hand and mentally prepared myself for the medal game. My Aussie opponent was strong but I thought she also had two hands and two legs, so why should I be afraid? I have the best trainer in the world. I can’t drop it.
I have elevated myself mentally and physically,” said Nethmi whose goal is to win gold at the Olympics and all international competitions she will represent in the future in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Wrestling Federation President Sarath Hewavitharana said she must compete in at least 10 international tournaments before heading to the 2024 Paris Olympics. He expressed his gratitude to the President of the National Olympic Committee (CNO), Suresh Subramaniam, who predicted that wrestling had the potential to win medals and promised to secure a scholarship for Nethmi to train in Hungary.
“I was convinced she would win a medal,” said Hewavitharana, a former wrestling champion. Sri Lankan shuttle stars Dumindu Abeywickrama and veteran Niluka Karunaratne retired in the round of 16 on the penultimate day of the men’s singles badminton competition. Abeywickrama lost to India’s Srikanth Kidambi while Karunaratne lost to Singapore’s Jia Heng after keeping the Sri Lankan flag flying in the singles competition.
Sri Lankan beach volleyball men Malintha Yapa and Ashen Rashmika battled it out in the beach volleyball quarter-final against Australia. England teenager Marfa Ekimova won the individual Commonwealth title with a narrow victory over nearest rival Anna Sokolova of Cyprus.
The 17-year-old impressed to claim gold with a combined 112.300 to win by just 0.200 as she led after the first spin – claiming 28.850 points – with the hoop before sealing the title with 27.100 in the ribbon .
Women’s Freestyle 53kg – Nordic Mercy Bolafunoluwa Adekuoroye (Nigeria) defeats Chamodya Keshani Vithanage (Sri Lanka) VSU (10 – 0) after 1:12, Vinesh Phogat (India) defeats VFA (Victory by Fall) after 2:24 Chamodya Keshani Vithanage (Sri Lanka) )
Women’s Freestyle 50kg – Group B: Madison Parks (Canada) beats Sriyanthika Niroshani (Sri Lanka) VSU (12-0) after 3:26 Women’s Freestyle 62kg – Quarter-Final: Esther Omolayo Kolawole (Nigeria) beats Sachini Umanga Silva Weraduwage (Sri Lanka) VSU (10-0) after 0:31 seconds Victory by technical superiority without any point scored by an opponent
Women’s Freestyle 57kg – Bronze: Nethmi Ahinsa Fernando Poruthotage (Sri Lanka) defeats Irene Symeonidis (Australia) VSU 10-0 after 1:51, Semi-Final: Anshu Malik (India) defeats Nethmi Ahinsa Fernando Poruthotage (Sri Lanka) VSU (10-0) after 1 minute 04 seconds, Quarter-final: Nethmi Ahinsa Fernando Poruthotage (Sri Lanka) defeats Joseph Emilienne Essombe Tiako (Cameroon) VFO (Victory by forfeit – if an athlete does not appear on the mat).
Men’s Freestyle 86 kg – 1/8 finals: Suresh Chanaka Warnakulasuriya Fernando (Sri Lanka) defeats Jean Frederic Marianne (Mauritius) VFA (Victory in the fall) 2-0 after 0:37, Quarter-finals: Alexander Moore ( Canada) beat Suresh Chanaka Warnakulasuriya Fernando (Sri Lanka) VSU 10-0 after 0:25
Quarter-final men: Australia (McHugh/Burnett) beat Sri Lanka (Malintha Yapa/Ashen Rashmika) 2-1 (16-21 21-16 15-9)
Women’s quarter-finals: Canada (Pavan/Melissa) beat Sri Lanka (Deepika Bandara/Chathurika Weerasinghe) 2-0 (21-9 21-11)
Men’s singles 1st round6: Srikanth Nammalwar Kidambi (India) beats Dumindu Abeywickrama (Sri Lanka) 2-0 (21-9 2-12), Jia Heng Teh (Singapore) beats Niluka Karunaratne (Sri Lanka) 2-0 (21-13 21-11 ) Mixed Doubles Round of 16: Sachin Dias / Thilini Hendahewa (Sri Lanka) beat Robert Summers/ Scholtz Johanita Scholtz (South Africa) 2-0 (18-21 8-21) Men’s Doubles Round of 16: Sachin Dias/ Buwaneka Goonetilleka (Sri Lanka) beat Ahmed Nibal / Ajfan Rasheed (Maldives) 2-0 (21-12 21-8)
Men’s doubles quarter-final: Peng Soon Chan / Kian Meng Tan (Malaysia) beat Sachin Dias / Buwaneka Goonetileke 2-0 (21-16 21-12), Round of 16: Cameron Pilley/ Rhys Dowling (Australia) beat Ravindu Laksiri / Shamil Wakeel (Sri Lanka) 2-0 (11-7 11-7)
Mixed doubles quarter-final: Chanithma Sinaly/Wakeel Shamil (Sri Lanka) beat Amanda Haywood/Shawn Simpson (Barbados) 2-0 (11-7 11-9), Ashley Khalil/Jason-Ray Khalil (Guyana) beat Yeheni Kuruppu/Ravindu Laksiri (Sri Lanka) 2-0 (11-10 11-3)
Mixed Doubles – quarter-final: Marcus Ellis / Lauren Smith (England) beat Sachin Dias / Thilini Hendahewa (Sri Lanka) 21- (21-12 21-19)
400m men, semi-final 1: Haron Adoli (Uganda) 45.80 seconds Q, Boniface Ontuga Mweresa (Kenya) 45.85 Q, Anthony Cox (Jamaica) 45.98 q, Steven Solomon (Australia) 46.30 q
Semi-Final 2: Jonathan Jones (Barbados) 45.82 Q, Muzala Samukonga (Zambia) 46.06 Q, Matthew Hudson-Smith (England) 45.77 Q, Nathon Allen (Jamaica) 45.99 Q, Kalinga Kumarage (Sri Lanka) 47.00
The first 2 of each heat (Q) and the next 2 fastest (q) qualify for the final
Women’s 3000m Steeplechase – Final:1 Jackline Chepkoech (Kenya) 9:15.68 GR, 2 Elizabeth Bird (England) 9:17.79, 3 Peruth Chemutai (Uganda) 9:23.24, 4 Aimee Pratt (England) 9:27.41, 5 Amy Cashin (Australia) 9: 35.63, 6 Eilish Flanagan (Northern Ireland) 9:57.18, 7 Nilani Ratnayaka (Sri Lanka) 10:00.34, 8 Brielle Erbacher (Australia) 10:59.64
Men’s 3m Springboard – Preliminary 15 Dulanjan Kaushalya Fernando (Sri Lanka) 217.95 points