On a life changing journey These iron ladies are set to compete in the greatest marathon known to Sri Lanka

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Words :  Aanya Wipulasena
Photos : Nirmala Dhananjaya

When Anusha Hettiarachchi Hettigoda came across an online article about the upcoming IRONMAN triathlon, scheduled to be held on February 25th in Sri Lanka, she knew it was a challenge she wanted to take up.
This year will mark the first IRONMAN triathlon to be held in South Asia. What makes it even more memorable for our island is that there are in fact 880 athletes from 64 countries set to participate in this much celebrated and massive triathlon titled Sri Lanka Wonder of Asia IRONMAN 70.3 Colombo. The event will see athletes cover 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and a 21.1km run altogether.
Anusha’s immediate intention as she came across the piece of news was to form a three-member relay team to participate, providing a great opportunity for first timers like herself to take part.
As a mother of two and managing the family business (Premasiri Stores) she already has enough on her plate but her passion to swim, which she is up to even at midnight, made her yearn to participate in the triathlon that commences with a one-loop 1.9km swim at Galle Face Green that will be followed by a three-loop 90km bike course through the Colombo City and past the Old Parliament Building and into the Colombo Port, and conclude with a 21.1km run along the coastline.
But the first challenge she faced on this journey was finding two more members to form a power-trio to represent her school- St. Bridget’s Convent in Colombo.
“I called my batch mates from school,” Anusha recalls. However, her batch mates did not share the same enthusiasm as she did, so she had to put the word out to recruit the much needed members.
A junior swimmer and a friend from her Alma Mater, Upekha Wickramaratne who is also in the organizing committee of IRONMAN came to her aid. Not long afterwards, Anusha found the ideal team members she needed.
When Dharshini Ariyaratne, a teacher at Asian International School, received a phone call from Upekha she instantly knew what she was talking about. “I was approached by another team but I just turned them down because even the thought of it for me, was a bit overwhelming. I had not, previously done, any competitive cycling” she says. But the idea of representing her school at an international event thrilled her. She said yes to Anusha, and is set to take up the cycling challenge.
Shermila Lafir Jayasinghe, also a mother of two and employed at Marks & Spencer and a star athlete herself will conclude with the run.
None of the three are new to the world of sports. Anusha is a trained swimmer. Her late father was her mentor and encouraged her to take part in swimming events in school. “I can remember my parents always being there for me. They gave me the freedom and motivation to take up any challenge. They always said that I am capable of doing anything,” she fondly remembers. With that foundation she even went on to represent her university- Sri Jayawardenepura- at international swimming events like the World University Games in Japan.

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