Deshabandu Thilaka Jinadasa has been heralded with the rare honour of being nominated for Sri Lanka’s IOC Women and Sport Award 2021.
Thilaka was the very first female Olympian to represent Sri Lanka in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and is also a double International athlete who represented Sri Lanka in both Athletics and Netball. She is the only Sri Lankan athlete to have represented the country in five consecutive South Asian Games and won medals in all Games including one Gold, four Silver and four Bronze.
She was also the Sri Lankan Netball Team Vice-Captain when the team won the Asian Netball Championship title in 1997 in Singapore.
The versatile sports veteran Thilaka expressing her feelings on this nomination said: “I feel it is a great honour and privilege for being nominated as the IOC nominee of the Women and Sport Award. I have been involved with two sports at the very top level – as an athlete and an administrator cum coach and my greatest passion in this is my ability to uplift the cause of women’s sport in this country and fight towards equality in sport.”
While she was an athlete, she felt there was a lack of women participation in sports in Sri Lanka; therefore, she decided to become a coach to promote women in sports. She turned her experience gained being a role model top athlete in the country to serve and enrich the lives of athletes in rural parts of Sri Lanka with her new role coaching girls in netball and athletics.
As she dreamed, Thilaka became an International Netball Coach, IAAF Level-1 Athletics Coach and Australian Strength and Conditioning Level-1 Coach to empower women through sports. Under her guidance, as a national netball coach, Sri Lanka won the Asian Netball Championship title twice in 2009 and 2018.
Also, Sri Lanka qualified on both occasions to compete at the World Cup Netball Championship in 2011 and 2019. Her coaching career spans for over two decades and she has immensely contributed to uplifting women’s sports in Sri Lanka. Her achievement was recognised by the SLT SLIK Sports Awards and awarded as the Outstanding Coach of the Year in 2018.
Thilaka accounts for international experience as well in coaching when she was sent by the International Netball Federation to India to conduct netball coaching workshops for coaches in 2007.
She also served as National Netball Coach for the national teams of Maldives and Brunei Darussalam where she shared her expert knowledge to uplift girls’ sports with the limited resources in those countries.
Under her guidance, Brunei Darussalam Netballers were exposed to international experience playing netball in the international arena and won their very first medal at the South East Asian Games, which was marked as a history in Brunei Netball.
Moreover, Thilaka also engaged herself as a commentator in sports programmes happening in electronic media nationally and internationally. On the academic front, she serves as a visiting lecturer at the National Institute of Sports Sciences in Sri Lanka.
As a role model in society she inspires the girls by way of her inspirational talks invited on more than 30 occasions by the schools, universities, and media to deliver motivational speeches to empower the children in and out of Sri Lanka.
She is also a working member of the International Council for Coaching Excellence and currently involved in the development of coaching systems in emerging countries. Currently, she is working as a Team Leader Sports Development at Gateway Colleges (Group) a leading school in the country with over 5,000 students.
Thilaka is a founder member of Gold March Sports (Netball), which is a high-performance framework programme for the development of athletes and coaches internationally, where she is heading the netball segment and consultant for the athletic segment. She is also a speaker in their webinar series on different topics such as women involvement in sport, safeguard sport and doping in sports.
Thilaka was the very first female sportsperson to be recognised at the National Heroes Day in 1988 where she was awarded National honours ‘Deshabandu’ by the President for her achievement and dedication to sports. Last year activist and former reputed netball player Caryll Tozer was nominated for this accolade by the NOC SL.