Just keep swimming
By Uwin Lugoda
Ceylon Today Features
It's everyone's dream to represent their country in a sport they love; but not everyone can do it. Taveesh Edussuriya is not everyone.
Taveesh Edussuriya is a very special young man who has excelled in the sport he loves and gone on the represent Sri Lanka in swimming in the 29th Summer Universiade which took place in Taipei, Taiwan, on 19 to 30 August 2017. The Universiade, for those who don't know, is like an international university Olympics that take place every year with such countries like USA, Great Britain, Russia and even Ukraine taking part in it.
Taveesh has managed to not only excel in sports but academics as well; being one of the very few students to be accepted into the University of Kaleniya as a medical student. Thanks to his ability to perfectly balance his passion and education, Taveesh has been named the Sportsman of the Year for 2016 by the University at its recently held Colours Award Ceremony.
Taveesh has managed to not only excel in sports but academics as well; being one of the very few students to be accepted into the University of Kelaniya as a medical student. Thanks to his ability to perfectly balance his passion and education, Taveesh has been named the Sportsman of the Year for 2016 by the University at its recently held Colours Award Ceremony.
More recently he took part in the 39th Princess Chulabhorn Cup Swimming Championship 2017, held at the Kasetsart University, Bangkok on 9 and 10 December. This triangular meet consisted of swimmers from Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar. Taveesh won Gold medals in both the 50m and 100m Breast Stroke events. We were able to sit down with this talented young all-rounder to talk about his journey so far.
Q.Tell me about your early life?
I wasn't a natural swimmer. Compared to my friends in the business I didn't have much talent. It took me seven years to even get into the top eight. I owe it to my supportive parents and the fact that I never stopped trying that I finally managed to achieve something.
Q.What made you get into swimming?
Well of all things I could suck at, I suck at breathing. As a child I used to have frequent asthma attacks, and swimming is prescribed as a therapy. Also, I suck at any other sport above water.
Q.What sets you apart from other sportsmen?
I suppose I was more persistent than most in the field. No one was more familiar to the phrases "at least you tried" and "next time hondata karamu machan". It's hard to keep going when everyone around you is celebrating their achievements but you have to go home empty-handed. My best stroke is the Breast Stroke and my fastest time has been 2 minutes and 34 seconds in the 200m breast stroke.
Q.How does it feel to represent your country in a sport that you love?
Well it's intimidating and empowering at the same time. The 29th Universidad was an experience I will never forget although I didn't win anything in it. I witnessed some of the finest swimming I had ever seen. Seeing the Olympic tattoo on the competitor next to me at my event made me reevaluate some life decisions I admit, but it was a privilege to even be able to swim in such distinguished company.
The 39th Princess Chulabhorn Cup Swimming Championship was awesome. More than the meet itself the cultural immersion of the thing was huge. We really got exposed to Thai culture and I think that's a big part of swimming at international level. It's not about collecting medals it's about collecting experience
Q.What are some of the hurdles you had to jump thorough to get here?
I grew up in Trinity College, Kandy, a sports positive school, so one might say I had it easy. But the greatest hurdle I had to jump was the local education system. It is just not geared towards making kids all-rounders; especially during the Advanced Level Examinations, balancing sports and studies becomes impossible. The problem is that entrance to local universities depends on academic merit and academic merit alone. No scholarships or sports admissions are even considered, except in some very rare situations. The problem with this is that sportsmen who train a few hours a day are at a distinct disadvantage to the kid who stays at home and studies 16 hours a day. I saw a lot of good sportsmen and even upcoming Olympians wasted due to the fact that our education system does not encourage sports.
Q.Has there been anyone who inspired you to get to where you are?
Well I got my inspiration from one teammate in particular, who was also my best friend, Mighara Hulangamuwa. He was an amazing swimmer. A natural at it and he had a habit of never saying die. He inspired us all to push our limits, train harder and swim our best even if we were down with pneumonia or grieving for a family member at the time. Applying that "never say die" attitude to studies was what helped me get into medical faculty as well.
Q.What would you consider your greatest achievement?
My achievements I gauge in magnitude of difficulty to myself personally and not the most prestigious awards. I would have to pick the time I broke a national festival of games record with pneumonia. I will never forget the feeling of achievement as my friends pulled me from the water because I was too weak to get out of the pool. Ended up in hospital the next day but it was worth it.
Q.Do you have any advice for up and coming sportsmen?
Advice I have for up and coming sportsmen... The old cliché 'hard work brings results' is true, but don't expect results right away. It's going be a hard long journey and you're going to want to give up more than once. Some people are able to do it alone. There are others such as myself who need anchors to prevent themselves from getting swept away. My anchors are my parents, friends and school swimming team. They didn't just teach me how to swim, they also taught me how to be a good person, and I believe that's what being a sportsman is all about. Last but not least, never underestimate the power of education. I know sportsmen and women as a group have a habit of looking down on homework and books, but in the end knowing your way around a textbook can actually help, and always remember that sports excellence at University level is heavily rewarded in local universities.
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