Feb 27, 2017

Lankan teen at Winter games surprises all

Although a snowfall is a thing unseen of in the sunkissed island of Sri Lanka, a Sri Lankan teen has grabbed headlines while competing at the recently concluded Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan.

While most of her competitors aced to grab a medal, 16-year old Azquiya Usuph aced to overcome her nerves and lack of experience to finish the Snowboarding event.

And though she achieved that goal she was disqualified after missing a gate.

“When I got to the starting gate, I was so scared and I fell over straight away… I fell over like four times and although I missed one of the gates I still made it to the finish… My main goal was to complete the race. I’m actually very happy because I’m new to snowboarding,” she said to AFP.

Nevertheless, Usuph has become the first Sri Lankan woman to compete at the Asian Winter Games.

Just the beginning
Sri Lanka is better known for producing cricketers but the South Asian island is developing a winter sports programme.

Sri Lankan Olympic officials insist Usuph won’t be the last woman from her country to take on similarly hair-raising challenges.

“This is just the beginning,” said National Olympic Committee secretary general Maxwell de Silva. “You will see in time that we will be a force to be reckoned with because we have people with very good sporting backgrounds,” he added.

“Not everyone can be winners but we’re sending a message that Sri Lankans are capable of doing anything if given the right training and opportunities.”

14 days
Usuph was selected because she is a talented swimmer, having won a national age-group title in backstroke.

The first time she saw snow was in 2015, when she went to South Korea to learn how to snowboard.

“I actually learnt to snowboard really fast — in a span of 14 days — which was kind of surprising,” said Usuph, who has no plans to take up the sport seriously.

Usuph also spent time at a training camp in Slovenia and regularly surfs to improve her balance and turns.

However, she has confessed that her real talents lie in the pool.

“Swimming’s really my sport,” says Usuph adding, “I would love to go to the Tokyo Olympics as a swimmer and this has shown me that I can do anything if I train hard enough.”

(Excerpts from AFP)