Netball tower Tharjini takes a bow | Sunday Observer

Netball tower Tharjini takes a bow

6 August, 2023
Record holder: Tharjini Sivalingam, Sri Lanka’s most capped player with over 100 international appearances
Record holder: Tharjini Sivalingam, Sri Lanka’s most capped player with over 100 international appearances

The end of an era for Sri Lanka happens today at the World Cup in South Africa when one of the world’s most iconic exponents plays her last match:

After a remarkable netball career spanning over a decade, Sri Lanka’s iconic goal shooter, Tharjini Sivalingam, fondly known as ‘Gene,’ bids adieu to her illustrious career at the Netball World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa today.

At 44 years, Gene, hailed as one of the world’s best netball shooters of all time, confirmed that this World Cup marks her final international representation for her country.

“Since this is my last World Cup and last international tour representing Sri Lanka, I cannot say a lot. Thanks for all the love, to each and every one,” she said emotionally.

Sivalingam’s sporting career had a late start due to the north-east civil war which ended in 2009. After pursuing Economics at the Eastern University in Batticaloa, she found her passion for netball and the national pool.

“I couldn’t really enjoy competitive sports in my childhood due to the war in Sri Lanka. I started my netball career at my university and from there, I was identified based on my height and flexibility,” she recalled. In 2004, she was spotted by Sri Lanka coach Thilaka Jinadasa during a university tournament.

After graduating, Sivalingam joined Seylan Bank, which made it easier for her to participate in National Pool practices in Colombo.

Despite Sri Lanka’s first-round exit in the 2011 World Championship, Sivalingam’s impressive performance saw her score 290 goals during the tournament and she shone through to be crowned the best shooter in 2011.

In 2017, Sivalingam made history as the first Sri Lankan netball player to play professionally, representing the City West Falcons netball club in Australia. Her invaluable contribution helped Sri Lanka secure the fifth Asian Netball Championships title in 2018 and she was named Player of the Tournament.

“Since I have seen many struggles from childhood, I can strive hard for anything – with that motivation, I always think positively and keep playing as long as possible,” she shared.

Sivalingam holds the record for the most capped netball player in Sri Lanka and achieved her 100th appearance for the national team during the 2019 World Cup. In the tournament, she astounded spectators with her 348 goals in 375 attempts across seven matches, cementing her place as the best shooter.

In 2019, she set another record by becoming the oldest player in the history of the Netball World Cup to compete at the age of 40.

Sivalingam’s impact on Sri Lanka’s netball team is akin to Brian Lara’s significance for West Indies cricket.

While her individual brilliance shone, the team faced challenges, struggling to find consistent success.

But the journey towards success continues for the nation’s beloved sportswoman.