“I think excelling in either academics or sports alone is not enough. There should be a balance” - Madhawee Weeratunge

“I think excelling in either academics or sports alone is not enough. There should be a balance” - Madhawee Weeratunge

Excelling in either sports or academics is strenuous task. Anyone can set about in either of these fields, but it takes exceptional people to stand out of the crowd and excel. This article is about a woman who has transcended to the top of both sports and academics. Madhawee Weeratunge is a graduate of University of Peradeniya, is also a decorated swimmer who has represented Sri Lanka.

She has represented Sri Lanka at the South Asian Games 2006 (Sri Lanka) , World Aquatic Championships 2009 (Italy), Commonwealth Games 2010 (India), Asian Games 2010 ( China), Youth Olympic Games ( Singapore), South Asian Games 2010 where she won a silver medal and a bronze medal ( Bangladesh), World University Games 2015 (South Korea) , World University Games 2017 (Taiwan).

She was a student of Mahamaya Girls college, where she has also been the School Games Captain (2009), Swimming Captain (2009), Best Sports Woman (2009), and won school colors from 2006 to 2011. She was named Best Sports Woman in Sri Lanka 2010 at the Milo Colors Award Ceremony, and has been the Sri Lankan Navy Swimming Captain (Girls) in 2013. While she was an undergraduate at the University of Peradeniya, she has won Best Upcoming Sports Woman of the University in 2014 and the Best Sports Woman of the University in 2015 at the university colors award ceremony. She was the captain of the University Swimming team in 2016, and she has established over 8 Sri Lanka University Games records, and won Sri Lanka University colors in 2016.

With all these accomplishments in sports, she has also managed to have an outstanding academic life. She got selected to the University of Peradeniya, where she graduated with a First Class while being the batch top and winning the Faculty Gold medal for extraordinary performance. The fact that one person could accomplish so much in her life is awe-inspiring. She joined with Moraspirit to divulge how she procured so much while balancing all fields.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

I'm Madhawee Weeratunge. I'm from Kandy and studied at Mahamaya Girls' College. I'm married and a mother of a beautiful daughter. My husband Kavinda works at a bank. My father is a businessman and mother is a house wife. My sister is an engineering graduate from University of Peradeniya and just completed her PhD from the University of Melbourne. My brother is a medical science undergraduate at Zhejiang University, China.

I did lot of extracurricular activities during my school time. I did my A/Ls in the commerce stream and got selected to the University of Peradeniya. The 4 years I spent at the university added so much value to my life. I did lots of activities and did swimming as well. Currently I'm working as a probationary lecturer attached to the department of Marketing Management, Faculty of Management, University of Peradeniya.

How were you first introduced to swimming? And what made you love swimming and stick to it?

My sister was a swimmer, therefore my mother also put me for up for training. The reason that made me stick to swimming was because it's associated with water and it's a different feeling than doing any other sport. Plus in my very first swimming meet I was able to win a gold medal. I think that boosted my self-confidence and I started to love the game ever since. For me it's just not a sport, it helps in all aspects of my life.

The first time you represented Sri Lanka was at the South Asian Games when you were 13 years of age. What was the road that led up to that? Were you good at swimming immediately when you started? Or what training and hard work went into that achievement?

I was good at it naturally may be because my father was a swimmer. But definitely it was all hard work and training which helped me excel in the sport. I trained twice a day, 6 days a week. As result I was able to establish records in the events relevant to my age group. And talking about the South Asian Games, we had a selection trial. In that I achieved good timings and was able to get selected to the team where my sister was also selected.

Obviously you've had many great accomplishments in your sports career. I'm sure they have all been amazing. But which of those accomplishments is your favorite? Any particular reason for it being your favorite?

World Championship held in Rome, Italy was one of my favorites because it was my first international competition where athletes from all over the world competed. And especially because I love Rome. South Asian Games held in Bangladesh comes to my list as well because I was able to win two medals.

You've balanced a great sports career with an outstanding academic life. How did you manage that? And what message do you have for school and university players who think it has to be one or the other, but not both?

Time management and dedication of course.  When I had exams I started studying early without waiting until the last moment. And I had a dedication to finish off something which I started. Not just finishing, but finishing it in a way that I'm satisfied.

Personally I think excelling in either academics or sports alone is not enough. There should be a balance. Then only people know this person is able to balance various aspects of life, mange time effectively and work hard to achieve goals.

Given that currently you’re working as a probationary lecturer, how have your accomplishments helped you get an edge in your post academic life?

Once we go to the job market, I think it's a competitive advantage to have engaged in sports and extracurricular activities during studies. The selection process is really competitive and only a few get the opportunity to get selected. Even though my academic performance was the main reason I got selected, my achievements in sports definitely helped. It gave me an advantage over the other candidates.

As a woman in sports, do you have a message for all young girls the country who are interested in sports?

Engaging in sports will actually make them stronger and will help to be the best version of themselves. It will mold them in to a better version of themselves by boosting their self-confidence, positive attitude, willingness to take up challenges and break the stereo type attitudes and perceptions.

Finally, what would be the next step in your sports career? And who would you like to thank for helping you to get to where you are now?

I don't think I will compete again. But I would love to contribute as a coach.

Mainly I would like to thank my husband, my daughter, my parents, sister, and my brother. And of course the teachers and coaches who mentored and guided me in this challenging journey. Finally I would like to thank my relatives, friends and all the other who helped me become who I am today.

Thank you very much Madhawee for sharing your story with us. Her insight to life should inspire all school and university students in the country. There should be balance in life. A good academic life will help maintain a good sports life, and vice versa. Madhawee Weeratunge has shown everyone that both those lives can co-exist. We wish her the best in all her future endavours.

Written by :- Gowantha Charithal

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