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Despite adversity, Sri Lankan gymnast competes with help of Turkish coach

Summer Games 3 August 2023

Amaya Sithumini Klukottage stared down the vault runway, ready for her first apparatus of the individual artistic gymnastics qualifier at the Chengdu FISU World University Games. Before starting her run, she looked toward the side of the mat, where her coach normally would have stood.

She began down the runway and vaulted a Tsukahara pike, taking a couple of steps back on the landing. As she walked off the platform, Turkish team coach Ozgur Gumuslu gave Klukottage a high five and a few words of encouragement.

Amaya Sithumini Kalukottage (Sri Lanka) competing in floor exercise

Throughout the rotations at the women’s team final and individual qualifiers, Gumuslu continued to support and coach the young Sri Lankan with his team of two Turkish athletes.

“When we first got here, our training sessions happened to be at the same time as Amaya. She told us that she didn’t have a coach from her delegation, so I said I could help,” said Gumuslu. “Since then, I’ve been helping her at every training and competition.”

In her home country the 23-year-old is coached privately, so her coach was unable to attend the FISU Games with the Sri Lankan delegation. She is the first-ever gymnast to represent her country at the FISU World University Games.

“It’s difficult to train [in Sri Lanka] because of the country’s situation,” she said.

Klukottage said there aren’t many gymnasiums that have standard gymnastics equipment. “There’s only one place in Sri Lanka with all the things we need,” she said, but she is hopeful that the situation will improve.

A month ago, her gym ordered new equipment for all the women’s events, and she said her coach in Sri Lanka, Ranjana Tharanga, is training several juniors with hopes of bringing them to the international stage.

Dominika Ponizilova (Czech Republic) on beam

Both Klukottage and Tokyo 2020 Olympian Milka Gehani are examples of how, while it is difficult, Sri Lankan gymnasts can compete at an elite level.

The gold medal in the team event went to China with 163.029 points. Japan took silver with 160.663 points, and Spain the bronze with 146.431. Klukottage scored a total of 37.998 points and fell short of qualifying for the individual all-around final.

“It’s dangerous and hard to train and compete without a coach, so I’ve stuck by her side,” said Gumuslu.

While the Sri Lankan wasn’t competing with anyone from her country, she still can rely on a team.

“They are all so kind, and they have been so helpful,” she said.

The student at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura will compete again on Saturday for the vault, uneven bars, beam, and floor finals, along with Turkish teammates Ilayda Sahin and Bilge Tarhan.

Written by Miriam Celebiler, FISU Young Reporter