By Saroj Pathirana
BBC Sinhala in Colombo
Nilmini Jayasinghe says she is determined to take part at the London Olympics despite her failure at the most recent world championships.
Nilmini Jayasinghe - pic: SundayObserver.lk
The first female boxer to win a world title for Sri Lanka, Nilmini did not qualify from the preliminary rounds in Barbados and told the BBC: "I am really disappointed. I won my first fight but it was very difficult against the Chinese woman boxer [Cancan Ren].
"I think I will have to train better and be focused on the next world championship in 2012. I am determined to qualify for the London Olympics."
Only two Sri Lankans have ever won an Olympic medal; Duncan White (400m hurdles) and Susanthika Jayasinghe, whose bronze in the women's 200m at the Sydney Games was upgraded to silver after Marian Jones was disqualified.
Nilmini, who won the under 51kg category at the world invitational women's boxing championship in St Petersburg last year, hopes to put Sri Lanka on the Olympic map again in London.
But she has identified the need to improve her form against fellow Asian competitors if she is to take the next step.
She impressed by beating Russian and Ukrainian opponents in the invitational in St Petersburg.
"But in Barbados another Ukrainian boxer won the bronze medal, while I was out in the preliminary round because I found it very difficult to fight with Asians," she said.
A garment worker who started boxing at her factory's gym, Nilmini has already had a battle to get this far.
"I was barely 18 when my boyfriend committed suicide. My whole world collapsed. I was blamed for it. There was no-one to turn to and no way to come to terms with the pain," she writes in a short autobiography.
Nilimini was persuaded by a friend to join the MAS Holdings group and to start training at their gym. She progressed, with help from the Amateur Boxing Association and, in particular, former president Dian Gomes.
Though very appreciative of her mentor, Jayasinghe is critical of Sri Lanka's sports authorities, who she says favour cricket to the exclusion of other sports.
"The government never sponsored any of our tournaments," she said.
"It is not that Sri Lanka lacks talent. We do have talent but there are no facilities, talented players are not supported to help improve their talent.
"Even if we manage to compete in Olympics, I don't think our sports authorities will value us.
"The sports ministry and the authorities suddenly wake up when someone has an international achievement. But until then nobody bothers to help us at all." - courtesy: BBC Sports -