Sophia Dharmasena – a sportswoman par excellence

0
94

Sophia Dharmasena, an old girl of Government Central College, Minuwangoda, has the unique distinction of captaining the National netball and volleyball teams. She was a shining star and participated in six sports altogether – Netball, Volleyball, Badminton, Basketball, Athletics and Football.

She had the honour of representing the Sri Lanka Netball team at the first ever inaugural World tournament held in 1963 (in England) under the captaincy of Dasmi de Costa. The girls emerged victorious against Northern Ireland and Wales. She was also a member of the team that played against an All-Island Australia team, and had the opportunity to travel to England, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, France and India the same year.

She was employed at the Fisheries Corporation and captained their netball team. They won the ‘B’ Division title in 1970 and was promoted to the ‘A’ Division.

Taking note of her excellent performance, the selectors appointed her captain of the Sri Lanka team in 1970. Under her leadership, in 1975 Sri Lanka played against the visiting Singapore team and won all three test matches to remain unbeaten.

She was also appointed captain of the Volleyball team in 1973 to play against the visiting Kerala team, and had the distinction of touring India to play against the All-India volleyball team. Sri Lanka won the series, winning four out of five matches.

Turning her interest to other sports, she won the triple crown at the inaugural Open Badminton Championships organised by the Nationalised Services Badminton Association in 1977.

She represented the Ramblers Sports Club basketball team that won the Saravanamuttu Trophy at the Western Province inter Club Tournament in 1971 and 1972.

She was adjudged the champion athlete at the 7th Annual Novices and Championship Meet conducted by Nationalised Services in 1972.

She represented Garuda Sports Club that won the first ever ladies’ football tournament in 1975.

Sophia migrated to Canada and lived there for the past 26 years, but has now returned to Sri Lanka to live with her two sons Suranjith and Kishan. Both her sons are well-known cricketers and Kishan’s daughter is following in her grandmother’s footsteps as she has been selected to the National Basketball squad.

Sophia was keen to see her two sons also took a liking to sports and gave them all the encouragement they needed. They both selected cricket as the sport of their choice.

Suranjith had the distinction of captaining his alma mater (Thurstan College) in 1984, and was selected to represent the Sri-Lanka Schools Under-19 team against the visiting Australia team. He joined Nomads after leaving school and also played for Tamil Union in Division 1 tournaments until 1993. His son Gavin represented Wycherly International.

Kishan too played for Thurstan College and represented NCC, Tamil Union and Wattala Antonian’s in Division 1 tournaments until late 90’s after leaving school. His daughter Shonali, a student of Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya, is following in her grandmother’s footsteps and has been chosen to represent Sri Lanka in Basketball.

Shonali was selected to represent the Sri-Lanka team at the FIBA under-18 3X3 men’s/women’s World Championship held in Hungary in 2021. In 2022 she represented HFC Blues that emerged 2nd runner-up at the 53rd Senior Nationals tournament, and was also the Vice Captain of the College under-20 Champion team which took part in the Schools Division 1 All Island tournament. Spotting her talent, the selectors have picked her for the 3X3 Sri Lanka Basketball Federation pool for the Commonwealth Games.