Geethani Rajasekera – Sri Lanka’s first female Olympic marathon runner
Bogaha Kotuwe Gedara Niluka Geethani Rajasekera is a former Women’s Sri Lankan long-distance runner who participated at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
She was born on March 17, 1982 and was educated at Ratnayake MMV, Walala. She mastered the art of long distance running after having joined the Sri Lanka Army.
Eldest in a family of three girls, Rajasekera learnt her basics in athletics at Napana Junior School in Kandy before joining Wattegama Balika Vidyalaya. But her admission to Ratnayake Central, Walala – a reputed school in Sri Lanka athletics, gave her better training opportunities under veteran Coach Susantha Fernando.
With a time of two hours 40.07s, and a new Sri Lankan record, at the 2015 Hong Kong marathon, Rajasekara achieved the qualifying standard for the marathon at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
She gave a glimpse of her talent and potential when she secured fourth place in the 400m and 800m events at the 1999 Arafura Games in Australia. Thereafter, Rajasekera switched to long distance running as well and she produced a fine performance to claim fourth place in the 1,500m event at the 2004 Asian Grand Prix Meet in Colombo.
Her first success at a major event came in 2005 when she bagged three Gold Medals and went on to win the Best Athlete Award at the Inter Religious Sports Festival in South Korea.
She powered her way to win the Women’s 800m, 1,500m and also helped the 4X400m Relay Team win first place during a breathtaking performance. She continued with her success at international events and produced another outstanding performance to win the Gold Medal in the 800m and 1,500m events at the Singapore Open Championship in 2006.
However, Rajasekera had a minor setback at the 2006 South Asian Games in Colombo where she had to contend with fourth place in the 800m and 1,500m events.
But she was determined to make an impact and kept her Olympic dreams alive by winning the Bronze Medal in the 800m and the fourth place in the 1,500m event at the 2008 South Asian Championship in Cochin India.
She made another lasting impression in long distance running when she helped Sri Lanka to secure fourth place in the Team Championship at the 2012 Asian Cross-Country Championships in China.
Rajasekera achieved another significant milestone in her career when she bagged the Gold Medal in the 5,000m event and the Silver Medal in 1500m event at the 2013 Thai Open Championship in Thailand.
Rajasekera was able to compete with some of the elite long distance athletes and fought hard to secure the ninth place in the 5,000m event at the 2013 Asian Championship in Pune, India.
She returned to the Thai Open Championships in 2014 and displayed her experience when she bagged two Gold Medals in the 1500m and in the 5,000m events. Thereafter, she was able to reach new heights when she won second place at the 2014 LSR Colombo Marathon in Colombo while establishing a new Sri Lanka record.
Rajasekera’s career took a dramatic turn when she set a new Sri Lanka record at the 2015 Hong Kong Marathon while securing the 16 place overall. She was selected to compete at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China and had to be satisfied with the 49the place.