Tharushi Karunarathna is LMD’s Sri Lankan Of The Year for 2023
Year 2023. Teetering on the brink of one disaster or another, people were literally clutching at straws to keep their heads above water – with unprecedented determination, let it be said. Undeterred by multiple setbacks, they had become immune to crises and living in the hope of a better tomorrow.
The hunger to achieve your ambitions is greater when the odds are stacked heavily against you. Adversity is one of the driving forces that triggers the spark burning inside people who yearn to reach the summit.
There is a pithy saying in Sinhala, which upon translation means: ‘The band goes on playing despite the sinking of the ship.’
Even at the worst of times, Sri Lankans have that enduring capacity to find ways to forget their woes and move on in life, and rise phoenix-like from the ashes instead of fretting or crying over spilt milk.
Sport is one such avenue that fuels the adrenalin of not only the competitors but also millions of spectators – especially when it comes to cricket. And we have been served an overdose of excitement and entertainment, most often to the point of despair by the inconsistency of the national team – the critics believe the fault lines lie in higher places such as the administrators, selectors and other bigwigs.
In the political arena, the pit is virtually empty! Save for a handful of apparently clean men and women, we find it impossible to bring any of them into our SLOTY equation because even they’re complicit by dint of turning a blind eye to the nation’s most compelling burning issue: rampant and unabated corruption in political circles.
By the same token, the same applies to other arms of the national makeup: Sri Lanka has yet to produce a statesperson who has the guts to speak out on what ails a failing nation and walks the talk at the same time.
Meanwhile, the golden run of athletes on the international stage mercifully brought back the smiles of a nation that’s been starved of success for decades. They provided us with something to cheer during these challenging economic times.
FLAG BEARERS The heroics of our sports stars in particular, especially on the track and field, is the epitome of their positive attitude and a passion to bring glory to the nation. And they are reflected in LMD’s 2023 shortlist; they’re our pride and richly deserve to be considered for LMD’s annual Sri Lankan Of The Year (SLOTY) accolade.
INFLUENCERS When LMD launched the SLOTY award 29 years ago, the nominees were drawn from some of the greatest influencers in politics, sport, business, entertainment and science.
The choice has been difficult in most years because the nominees had a profound impact on the social fabric of this nation and its image across the globe (even if in hindsight, a handful may stand out for all the wrong reasons for their misdemeanours in later years) and 2023 was no exception.
Most often, the bottom line has been a popular choice that voices the aspirations of the people.
In 2023, the phenomenal feat of a 19-year-old schoolgirl from Kandy who ran like a gazelle past favourites in the women’s 800 metres final to win Sri Lanka’s first athletics gold medal at the Asian Games in 21 years will live on in our memories for years to come.
Tharushi Karunarathna was not even born at the time Susanthika Jayasinghe (100m) and Damayanthi Dharsha (400m) last won gold medals for Sri Lanka – at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea.
As a student of A. Rathnayake Central College in Walala – a sports school renowned for producing top class athletes – Tharushi’s monumental achievement in Hangzhou wasn’t a bolt from the blue.
Some three months earlier in Bangkok, she had won a gold medal in the 400m women’s event at the Asian Athletics Championships and erased a 25-year-old Asian record in the event.
Tharushi Karunarathna is LMD’s Sri Lankan Of The Year for 2023.
Hand-picked by talent scouts as an outstanding prospect a few years ago, Tharushi has lived up to her potential by racing against the clock to shatter records and achieving what seemed a mission impossible. Her immense confidence and belief in beginning another golden era for athletics in Sri Lanka is notable.
As for our shortlist, there were many other shining stars…
The evergreen Chamari Athapaththu was crowned ICC Women’s Player of the Month for September after inspiring Sri Lanka to a historic series triumph over England. She beat South Africa’s Laura Wolvaardt and Nadine de Klerk to win the award. Named Player of the Series for compiling 114 runs and taking five wickets in Women’s T20 wins against England, the 33-year-old amassed 208 runs across five T20 innings and three ODIs in September.
Before Tharushi sizzled on the track, Nadeesha Dilhani Lekamge stole the limelight by bagging a silver medal in the women’s javelin throw in the Asian Games with a personal best throw of 61.75m. That was the first time in 17 years that Sri Lanka had won a medal in the Asian Games in athletics since Jayasinghe clinched a couple in 2006 in Doha.
Nadeesha Ramanayake, a 28-year-old from Weeraketiya, earned Sri Lanka its first 400 metres gold in 23 years at the Asian Athletics Championships in Thailand by clocking a personal best of 52.61 seconds. Sri Lanka’s last gold in this discipline came when Dharsha won both the 200m and 400m events in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2000.
Para-athlete Pradeep Somasiri won a gold medal for Sri Lanka in the 4th Asian Para Games in China. He was placed first in the men’s 1,500m (T46) event.
And to cap it all, in a stunning display of athleticism and perseverance, 71-year-old barefoot runner Akila Thirunayaki – a resident of Mulliyavalai village in Mullaitivu – won two gold medals and a bronze at the Asia Masters Athletics Championships held in the Philippines.
A retired prison officer, Thirunayaki claimed the top spot in both the 1,500 and 5,000 metre races, and a bronze medal in the 800m race. Her journey is even more remarkable considering her fourth place finish in the 400m race.
Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe made the list of the world’s 21 top ‘A’ Grade Central Bank Governors of Global Finance Magazine.
The Central Banker Report Cards, published annually by Global Finance since 1994, grade the central bank governors of 101 key countries and territories including the EU, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the Bank of Central African States and the Central Bank of West African States. Grades are based on a scale of ‘A’ to ‘F’ for success in spheres such as inflation control, economic growth goals, currency stability and interest rate management.
So it is with a deep sense of pride and admiration that LMD has chosen Tharushi Karunarathna as its Sri Lankan Of The Year for 2023 in recognition of her talent, courage and dynamism, which underlined her status as Asia’s best.
Tharushi is likely to inspire Sri Lankans in the years to come even as she explores new horizons.
SLOTY 2023: GENERATION Z TAKES CENTRE STAGE
BREAKING NEW GROUND LMD is breaking new ground with its 2023 award, which goes to a 19 year old – the youngest in the 29 years since we launched the pioneering award.