Sri Lanka’s born-again queen to waltz on a horse at Olympics | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka’s born-again queen to waltz on a horse at Olympics

12 January, 2020
Sri Lanka’s newest showgirl Matilda Karlsson poses in front of her picture and favourite horse called Choppin VA all set for the Olympic Games
Sri Lanka’s newest showgirl Matilda Karlsson poses in front of her picture and favourite horse called Choppin VA all set for the Olympic Games

Olympic officials are over the moon at the presence of a lost baby who has returned like a cherubic angel to fly her native flag like never before

Cameras clicked and media men scrambled to get a first hand glimpse of a onetime disowned baby girl who grew up to break every shackle and drawback to become Sri Lanka’s maiden of horse riding at the world’s most contested sporting showpiece, the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan come July.

Living up to her name, Matilda Karlsson will be turning heads in her saddle putting Sri Lanka on par with the elite nations in the noble sport as she symbolizes her journey from a three-month old infant offered to foreigners by her biological parents and fostered lovingly by a Swedish family that also taught her horsemanship.

Sri Lankan Olympic officials who have virtually nothing to crow about with only two medals ever won in the nation’s history, are over the moon that Karlsson had come to give them a most wanted face-lift.

“Sweden was waiting to grab her and we are blessed to have her back with us showcasing Sri Lanka in a beautiful Olympic sport. We can show the world we have an Olympic rider,” said Sri Lanka Olympic secretary Maxwell de Silva.

Born in central Kandy, Karlsson now age 35 was taken away for adoption and has never met her biological parents having returned to the land of her birth three years ago only to be struck down by its natural beauty.

While Karlsson admits she would like to track down and meet her parents, assuming they are alive, her main focus is leaping into the record books as she prepares to fly the Sri Lankan flag in Tokyo, the first from the island to qualify for the global showpiece.

“It was not an easy decision (to leave Sweden),” she declared. “That is where I grew up and from where I have all my values and feel very Swedish. But I feel very proud to represent Sri Lanka. This is my home now.”

To most Sri Lankans, Karlsson will be the cherubic angel in a sport they know very little about and where even seeing a horse is a luxury leave alone riding one.

But the slim-built dusky-looking typical Sri Lankan girl who was branded in Sweden as “one of the finest show jumpers”, is likely to give her followers something to leap about in Tokyo having contested many events in elite European countries.

“I have no fears at all, just excited to have the right horse that will help us on the way to the final round and a medal”, said Karlsson who was photographed like a super model when she was introduced to the Press.

Horse riding promoters in Sri Lanka are now pontificating that they have discovered a God-sent messenger to guide their fortunes although the sport, which is usually associated with royalty, has not even picked up in Sri Lanka where an entity is almost begging the government to allocate it a piece of land on which hopefuls can practice their dreams.

“We are not asking for any money and all we want is a strip of land and we’ll do the rest with Karlsson, even naming the place in her honour,” pleaded the head of the Sri Lanka Equestrian Association Suranjith Premadasa.

A one-time motor racing fanatic, Premadasa for now can only hope that Karlsson would change the course of history for Sri Lanka where for almost 20 years they could only pipe-dream about beauties on horses leaping over fences in front of kings and queens.

But while the sport’s keepers can only wait for politics to play its part, Karlsson is wasting no time to do something for her native country that has been transferred into what she calls an “amazing place of beauty and people I met”.

She is currently ranked among the 250 top shelf show jumpers after leaping up a 1000 steps and her ultimate goal is to hobnob with the world’s best 100 that could have princes and princesses.

“It does not matter where you come from. You are the queen of your own path. Every young woman should take the chance to become the best version of herself,” said Karlsson whose story and rise from a nameless baby to a blushing celebrity can be an inspiration to many a Sri Lankan girl.