YAMUNA - double international in basketball and netball | Daily News

YAMUNA - double international in basketball and netball

 Yamuna Wickremasinghe during her playing days with the trophies she had won
Yamuna Wickremasinghe during her playing days with the trophies she had won

I bumped into her amidst a gathering of her friends and relations at a lunch thrown by this vivacious lady at the Mount Lavinia Hotel.

She was none other than Yamuna Wickremasinghe now known as Yamuna Gajasinghe.Yamuna is domiciled in Germany and is now on a short visit to Sri Lanka. In her early sixties she still looked vibrant as ever. In the middle to late seventies she blazed a trail in both basketball and netball amongst other ball games. She was a natural athlete quite adept in many ball games be it net ball, basketball, rugger, hockey and even athletics.

An American athletics coach who happened to spot her at an athletic event and saw her long striding natural running and invited Yamuna to the states saying that he will make her a world beater. All this was lost to Sri Lanka when Yamuna decided to pack her bags and go to Singapore, it should be noted that Yamuna had to take this decision due to circumstances beyond her control.

The then O.I.C. Kirulapone Nizam Hajireen on the 1st of February 1980 stated as follows. ”Her achievements in the field of sports covered a wide range of games like basketball, netball, athletics and not forgetting her performance in ladies rugger and soccer, her performance have been of a very high standard and had won many rounds of applause for her gutty and heady display. She represented the” Colombo cagers basketball club and was the captain of the team, she was also the vice-captain of the first ever ladies soccer champions “The Garudas Sports Club.”Sri Lanka. She was a fleet footed winger who emerged as the best right winger in the country in ladies soccer at that time. Like a ‘duck taking to water’ this young lady adopted herself astonishingly well to any sport that she could lay her hands on.”

“It was also with great pleasure that I wish to place on record her achievements in net ball having toured England, Wales, Scotland, Singapore and also India many times with the national team.”

Yamuna mentioned the fact that In basketball she was the playmaker and also was the fastest player in the team moved like ”greased lightning” to cover both ends of the court next to no time.

In netball she represented the national under 25 team against the British Airways team who toured Sri Lanka and she was the captain and goalkeeper, the following year she represented the senior team against another British team in the year 1977. The coaching of the Sri Lanka team was rotated between Trixie Jayasuriya, Cynthia Rasquinho and Kusuma George so was the captaincy and Yamuna got her chance to captain the national senior side in the Galle match,then again her speed of movement around the court was useful in preventing the Britishers from netting many a ball. In athletics, she made her mark in Singapore there again Yamuna was a dab hand in all the events both track and field.

She had a star for sports she mentioned and she played hockey with likes of Jennifer Machado for the Burgher Recreation Club (BRC) her position was left extreme and she was a speedy left winger.

Yamuna insisted that she was one of the fastest runners in Sri Lanka at that time and could have rubbed shoulders with the likes of K.G.Badra.in fact she was nicknamed ”cotton hall” the ace race horse at that time.

She regretted the fact that she could not delve into athletics. One wonders if she had a good manager or a guide to channel all her talents into one sport, she could have been another Duncan White or Susanthika Jayasinghe. I feel that her inert energy, efforts and skills she possessed has gone astray due to the fact that good guidance which are available nowadays were not there for Yamuna and as a result an Olympic Medal, a commonwealth medal or even an Asian games medal went down the drain, it really was a pity.

Her prowess in rugger was as follows. women’s rugger was just taking shape in Sri Lanka and they had to pick talent and as a result they had a trial match at Longdon place under the watchful eyes of Didacus de Almeida and Reggie Bartholomeusz (a brilliant winger and a child hood friend of mine who migrated to Australia many moons ago).Yamuna again played as a winger and bolted down the left wing to score three tries, there again Yamuna was ear marked for better things by the two ex-rugby stalwarts.

when inquired about the objections Yamuna had in practically spending all her time outdoors be it in a netball 0r basketball court, or hockey,rugger all in the periphery of her home town Pamankada, she was quick to point out that she had no objections what so ever because her late father a leading businessman at the time was her number one fan.

She made special mention about Francis de Almeida her coach and mentor. Yamuna was absorbed into the Colombo municipality automatically as a playground instructress due to her fantastic track record in all the above mentioned sports, this was in 1975.She was stationed initially at Muttiah grounds then Rudra and Havelock grounds.,after her five year stint at the Colombo Municipality she went to Singapore and worked and took part in many athletics meets where she outshone the Singaporeans in athletics.

Eventually she met her present husband who was a leading businessman, in Singapore and then went with him and now Yamuna has been in Germany for a long period of time, she has two grown up sons but unfortunately none of them are athletes or sportsmen like their mother. 


 

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