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By 2017-11-16

Two rural schoolgirls will represent Sri Lanka at the AIBA Youth Women's World Boxing Championships scheduled to be held from November 19-26 in Guwahati, Northeastern India, a press release from ABA states.

Both representatives are aged 17 years and students of remote village schools in the Kandy District: Madumali Priyadarshani of Pallebowela MMV and Sewwandi Fernando of Kengalla MV. Whilst Fernando makes her international debut in Guwahati, it will be the second overseas exposure for Priyadarshani, having debuted at this year's Commonwealth Youth Games in Bahamas.

However, she was eliminated in the first round of the competition by a tough New Zealander.

Priyadarshani competes in the 45-48 Kg weight category and Fernando in the 48-51 Kg category.

With the Guwahati event designated as a qualifier for the 2018 Youth Olympics Games in Buenos Aires meet, the Sri Lanka girls can expect to encounter high-quality opposition. Nearly 200 boxers from 38 countries will compete for 40 medals in ten weight categories.

Boxing was introduced initially to seven girls' schools in 2006, and over the past eleven years the number has swelled to thirty.

Two years after the Youth World Championships' introduction to youth girls, ABA sent a team of two to the 2015 edition in Taipei, but both didn't advance beyond their first fights. "Schoolgirls boxing (in Sri Lanka) hasn't yet acquired the maturity needed to become potential international medal winners, especially in competitions such as the one in Guwahati – which really is as good as a world championship at a youth level,'' said Dian Gomes, ABA President. "But our aim is to get to the point where medals are achievable – and for this international exposure is a must. Unfortunately there aren't many international competitions for 17-18 year-old girls in Asia, which is why we have to throw our schoolgirls into the deep-end in Guwahati.''

Dian Gomes, whose ultimate ambition is to give the country its first ever Olympic medal in boxing, is perhaps taking a leaf off the remarkable success story of the fabled Indian woman boxer, Mary Kom, whose childhood was spent working in a village farm but grew up to be five-time World Amateur Boxing Champion, six-time medallist at the World Championships and 2012 Olympic bronze winner.

The background of both of our Guwahati representatives is not too dissimilar to that of the Indian legend's Madumali Priyadarshai is the daughter of a farmer, residing in Pallebowela, an interior village nearly 40 kilometres from Kandy city. Sewwandi Fernando's father runs a small-time boutique in Kengalla, a village off the Kandy-Mahiyangana road, 22 kilometres from the city. "I don't think they know the meaning of affluence, all the better for boxing. After all, there's nothing that drives boxers to success than hunger and want, as was the case in Mary Kom's success,'' said Gomes.



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