by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
Meet the tallest female netball player in Asia - Tharjini Sivalingam.
She stands at 6ft 10in (that’s 207 centimetres) and she is also a Tamil.
Her sport, netball, is like basketball but you can’t run with the ball or bounce it.
Twelve months after the end of the decade’s long civil war that divided Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Sinhalese communities for three decades, Sri Lanka is undergoing a period of uncomfortable reconciliation.
Tharjini Sivalingam’s success is not just a source of national pride; it is also a win for the Tamil community.
Last year, Tharjini Sivalingam brought glory to herself and the country. The Sri Lankan netball team emerged the winner of the Asian Championship in 2009. In the final game, she scored 74 of 77 goals.
“My shooting average is 100 percent. Now, I am very happy.”
As a young woman growing up in the predominantly Tamil city of Jaffna, Tharjini Sivalingam was often teased about her extraordinary height. It wasn’t easy for her.
To get on a bus she had to bend herself right over.
Buying clothes and shoes was also difficult.
“Those time, I am staying in my home town Jaffna. That time I am very sad. All people looking at my height. Now, never mind. I am the player. Positive and ok now.”
Her family supported her, but the difficulties she faced clearly caused her family some pain.
“Earlier, I don’t know, my friend told me my mother is very sad. Sometimes she is crying, now my mother is happy, I think. Tallest and famous, no? That’s the reason my mother is now very happy.”
Being selected for the national team has been hugely important in Tharjini Sivalingam’s life, turning her from the subject of teasing to one of admiration.
“I think I am very proud in myself and happy. I think happy. My friends are happy, my parents are happy, all the people are happy. I am playing netball.”
Thilaka Dhammika Jinadasa is the coach of the Sri Lankan netball team.
“I look at Tharjini as an asset for Sri Lanka. She is like a backbone for the national team. Earlier we had lack of shooting. Now, we are 100 percent confident that when the ball goes to the attacking side, it will be a successful game, because of Tharjini.”
Tharjini is not only the tallest woman on the team.
She is the only Tamil.
The rest of her teammates are Sinhalese.
This is sometimes a problem when the players and the coach mostly speak in Sinhalese or English which are second languages for Tharjini.
“On your way back, lean back, lean back. Opposite foot”.
Ishara Harshini Kiriella is one of Tharjini Sivalingam’s teammates.
“Though she is Tamil, she is a good player and good friend .Most of the time in past days she was not talking with us, she was bit nervous, but now she is ok. Now she told everything to us. I think she was shy those days, now she is ok. She is good.”
Her height has helped secure the fortunes of the Sri Lankan netball team. It also brought her confidence and personal success.
It has also brought a certain amount of fame and admiration from her fellow Tamils.
Lakshman Rajkumar is a tuk tuk driver in Colombo.
“I am very happy because she being a Tamil got a place to play for the national team in Sri Lanka. It’s God’s wish. She was born in Jaffna and got selected to play for the national team.” - courtesy: Asia Calling.org -
~ click on pic for larger image ~ at 7th Asian Netball Championship Malaysia vs Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka won vs. Malaysia 72-52 ~ pic courtesy of: jet_4orce