Sri Lankan fighters like Keshia who are living abroad should be discovered and made to represent the national team because when they come to train here they will not only improve themselves but also the local standard of Taekwondo.
The Sri Lankan born athlete who grew up in the United States of America went on to bag an unexpected Gold Medal which stands as Sri Lanka’s farthest outstretch in Women’s Taekwondo until now. Fathima Keshia Suhail won Gold in the 57kg weight Senior 2 Division championship organised by the Korea Taekwondo Association at Bangladesh in year 2010.
However, her citizenship in the United States created a bit of controversy with the Taekwondo Federation of Sri Lanka prior to her inclusion. Regardless of the issues with the ministry, Keshia Suhail’s aggressive approach helped her defeat Nepal’s Manita Sahi (4-2) in the finals of the championship.
Sri Lanka Taekwondo national coach Ki Su Lee initially identified Keshia Suhail’s talent and urged the Sri Lankan authorities to discover such overseas sporting talent to uplift the hope for medals in international competitions.
Six long years have gone by and Keshia Suhail now works as a medical student in the United States of America.
Ki Su Lee first heard of Keshia Suhail from one of her training assistants in the United States. He then decided to test her abilities in a Korean training camp before requesting her to represent Sri Lanka in the international level. Unsurprisingly, Keshia Suhail’s talent grabbed Lee’s eye on the first go.
Having coached Sri Lanka for over a decade, Ki Su Lee believed that Sri Lanka needed a boost and Keshia Suhail was the right person to do so. He also trained Gayathri Sandamali who spearheaded the Sri Lankan Women’s Taekwondo unit before Keshia Suhail’s inclusion.
“Most of the national team is made up of members of the Police and Army Taekwondo teams so I was anyway working closely with the Sri Lankan fighters. Things are slowly changing now though, there are inter university and inter-school competitions which are bringing younger students into the sport,” added coach Ki Su Lee.
Ki Su Lee believed that the early twenties were the best times to compete. Rightly so, Keshia Suhail was 20 years old back in 2010.
Back in the US, Keshia Suhail was a medical student who studied Exercise and Sport Science at the St. George’s University. At Mills High, Keshia Suhail was once an excellent Basketball player who took her team to great victories in the circuit.
At Bangladesh, she overcame all obstacles to represent Sri Lanka in the Division 2 Championship before successfully defeating her opponents to claim Gold. The tournament was recognized an backed by the World Taekwondo Federation. It was indeed a tremendous deal as the tournament comprised of participants from 54 countries including Japan, USA, India, Russia and Canada.
“I was confident of winning a Gold for the country and I put the best show in the final,” said Keshia after her victory.
Keshia Suhail then returned to the United States to continue with her medical degree. By far, Taekwondo has improved as a sport in Sri Lanka. Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of school students who take up Taekwondo in their early teens. Alternatively, institutes are up and running, especially in the Colombo district.