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Essay: Susanthika Jayasinghe

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  • Subject area(s): Sports essays
  • Reading time: 4 minutes
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  • Published: 15 September 2019*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 981 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 4 (approx)

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Running has become a big part of American sports, although not many people know its  origin. The ancient Olympic Games began in the year 776 B.C, when Koroibos, a chef from the near city of Elis, won a race 600 feet long. Many believe that this was the only event to be hosted for the first 13 Olympic festivals. From 776 B.C the games were held strictly in Olympia every four years, for nearly twelve centuries. Skipping to the 19th century, running became a popular sport in the United States around 1860.  As track and field became a modern sport, women started participating. The Ancient Greeks didn’t exclude women from olympic competition. They shielded them from viewing the games of death and pain. Despite such gains, women’s availability still is harshly limited: the playing field is far from even. “Sports in our society,” says Donna Lopiano, director of intercollegiate athletics for women at the University of Texas at Austin, “is still a right for little boys and a privilege for little girls.” Its disappointing that we still struggle with this topic in our modern society.

Susanthika Jayasinghe (born December 17, 1975) was raised about sixty km away from Sri Lanka’s capital with nothing more than a simple lifestyle and the great talent for running. Jayasinghe was raised in Uduwaka, where a pair of shoes cost more than the average monthly wage. When her father lost his job as a taxi driver, her mother had to support the family of five by tapping rubber trees. Jayasinghe helped out by rolling cigarettes, where she would have to occasionally skip school. Rolling about fifteen thousand cigarettes a week would earn her just about $0.17. At Jayasinghe’s school, which was the only one in the town boys would play basketball and volleyball, leaving the girls with running games. “Fewer than ever female student athletes enter careers in physical education, leadership ranks are shrinking.” says Susan L. Morse.  Jayasinghe’s clear passion for running is believed to have started in her early years at school. Her parents weren’t understanding of her great admiration to run, and wanted Jayasinghe to pursue her studies solely. While her parents weren’t fond of the idea of running, her siblings were supportive due to the fact that they were excellent athletes just like her. Nearly 90% of the one thousand parents interviewed in a 1988 study said that they viewed sports participation just as important for their daughters as for their sons.

Jayasinghe grew up in a part of Sri Lanka that was heavily Buddhist. Buddhism, a religion / philosophy developed from the teacher Buddha (Sanskrit: “Awakened One”)  It’s a religion that mainly focuses on personal spiritual growth. Some core beliefs of Buddhism are cycality of all life and karma. “Buddhism spread from India to Central and Southeast Asia, China, Korea, and Japan. In the 20th century it spread to the West. Buddhism arose in a period of great social change and intense religious activity.” (“Buddhism in Sri Lanka.”) The goal for Buddhist traditions is to conquer suffrage and the cycle of death and rebirth.“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” (Buddha.) Over 520 million people, or 7% of the world practices Buddhism making it the fourth most followed religion in the world. Buddhists practice the religion through meditation, hoping that it will increase their qualities of awareness, kindness, patience, and wisdom. Buddhism does not include worshipping to a creator, so there is controversy that it’s not a religion, but more of a philosophy. “Buddhists believe that one day, seated beneath the Bodhi tree (the tree of awakening), Siddhartha (Buddha) became deeply absorbed in meditation and reflected on his experience of life until he became enlightened.” (Buddhism at a Glance) Buddha was significant because he was the first person to procure full enlightenment in recorded history.

Jayasinghe’s life during the Olympics was difficult. She went through a rigorous two year training program with her first track coach in order to prepare for the Olympics, and went heavily into debt because of it. Her first Olympic game was when she was in her teens. She competed in the 1994 Asian games in Hiroshima, Japan. Jayasinghe won 2nd place in the 200m sprint. She was the initial Olympic Medalist in Sri Lanka after gaining independence from the British in 1948. Her following race was the Asian Championships, where she won 2nd place in the 100m sprint and 1st in the 200m sprint. Jayasinghe became addicted to the feeling she got when she ran. She was briefly considered one of the absolute best female sprinters produced by the Asian continent.

Jayasinghe’s success didn’t last long because she was later accused of taking performance enhancing drugs in 1998. She was suspended from a competition in April  for failing a drug test that she claimed was “rigged” because of her religious and political beliefs. Her once encouraging and supportive country no longer respected or welcomed her. Years later, the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) announced that the drug test had been false and that it was all a mistake. “I can’t explain,” says Susanthika Jayasinghe “You wouldn’t understand. They give me, trouble, trouble, trouble. I give them a bronze medal. It’ll make them sad… It was trouble with me, doping.” Jayasinghe’s husband encouraged her to retire to lead on a “normal life,” she was against the idea. Things took a turn however, because she was expecting her first child. Jayasinghe made a hard decision to retire on February 5, 2009 because she wanted to be a dedicated mother to her son. Jayasinghe happily lives in her home country with her nine year old son and husband, where she’s decided to sell all of her medals and donate the money to charity.

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