There are those with disabilities who take it as a disadvantage in life and just sit and moan and then there are those who turn those disabilities into something positive. Randika Cooray is one of them.
Randika Cooray was the only Sri Lankan athlete at the 6th World Dwarf Games in East Lansing, Michigan United States of America held last month.
Randika brought glory to Sri Lanka by winning two gold medals thus becoming the first Sri Lankan athlete to win gold in any World Dwarf Games, Paralympics or Olympics. She won her first medal in the badminton beating Deidre Nagle from Great Britain, the previous World Champion from 4 years ago, in the final. She also won gold in the boccia event by beating Alyssa Biddle from Australia, the key member of the Australian gold winning boccia team, emphatically in the final. She also a part of the Ladies GB football team who beat the United States of America to win gold.
The World Dwarf Games takes place every 4 years. In 2009 Sri Lanka was represented by Randika at the Games in Ireland.
“It’s a proud moment and a blessing to walk down on the tracks of Belfast, N. Ireland in 2009 and East Lansing, Michigan in 2013 as the first and only athlete representing Sri Lanka. A few years ago I never thought that my dream of doing a sport will ever come true. Look at me now I am an international athlete. It is definitely an opportunity that should not be missed especially to meet people from different countries who are more or less the same height as me and compete at the same level,” she said.
Randika said she was able to overcome adversity and prove to herself and her country that being of restricted growth doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your dream.
“It’s not about winning it’s about choosing what you want to be and what you can do, recognising it and giving it 100%. It’s about not letting your disability beat you, proving to others and yourself that despite your disability you can still achieve amazing goals. You can still stand tall and be proud of your own achievements. Of course winning is a bonus,” she said.
Randika was also all praise to her family, friends and sponsors without who she could not have gone this far.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support from my husband, family and friends . I was sponsored by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and Alliance Finance of Sri lanka. The SLTPB was kind enough to support me for the second time. Also I would like to thank Col Rajitha Ampemohotti & Col. Rajeeva Wickramasighe from Rehab Lanka Sports club for providing me with membership and organising my sports attire for the games. I am also deeply thankful to Alliance Finance of Sri Lanka for having sponsored my travel to the games,” she said.
With her remarkable success Randika hopes to inspire others to follow in her footsteps and hopefully join her by helping to create a bigger Sri Lankan team to go to the next World Dwarf Games in 4 years time.
“I really hope that people will start thinking about disability in a different light. Sri Lanka is far behind in seeing peoples’ talents outside what they call the ‘norm’. I am not judging the society in Sri Lanka but I hope that they will now appreciate the diversity of all Sri Lankans, see beyond peoples’ disability and accept and include everyone in society.” (Colombo Gazette)