The Sri Lankan serving some of the best Australian badminton

The Sri Lankan serving some of the best Australian badminton

Photo credit: Badminton Oceania
Story by Afiq Roslan

In his left hand, Sawan Serasinghe wields his weapon at eye-level, poised and ready to swing at a moment’s notice. He is undoubtedly a gladiator but the 1.78m tall Australian does not fight in arenas. No, his battlefield is the badminton court.

With his trusted racket in his left hand, Mr Serasinghe strikes shuttlecocks in still-aired halls, currently ranking 101st in the world with his men’s doubles partner Matthew Chau, and 84th with his mixed doubles partner, Setanya Mapasa.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have visited so many countries while competing in these tournaments,” Mr Serasinghe said.

Not many people get the opportunity at such a young age and I managed to achieve all this through badminton.

The 24-year-old’s journey to the Australian badminton team started in Galle, Sri Lanka. Mr Serasinghe recounts fond memories of running down to the beach and enjoying the tropical weather. It was here where he picked up badminton, aged only five, after watching his parents play.

“Badminton was always a family sport and I remember wanting to join my parents, so I guess some of their skills were passed on to me through their genes,” Mr Serasinghe confessed.

Photo credit: Joseph Yeung

After winning his first national title in 2003, Mr Serasinghe realised that this was something that he could pursue professionally. Soon after, when he was 11-years-old, he and his parents immigrated to Melbourne to join the rest of his family.

“I remember being quite scared of the move,” Mr Serasinghe recounts.

I had to leave my friends behind and learn a new language, all in a completely new environment at that.

With help from his cousins and friends he made in Gleneagles Secondary College, Mr Serasinghe was settled and back on the court just three months after arriving in Australia.

Since then, he has gone from strength to strength, breaking into the national team aged 16 and becoming the first Sri Lankan to represent Australia in badminton, with his international debut coming in 2013 at the Youth Olympic Festival where he competed in both the men’s singles and doubles events.

Mr Serasinghe, who always gets a haircut before a tournament, singled out the Rio Olympics in 2016 and this year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast (GC2018) as being the top two moments in his career, sighting the overwhelming support as being like nothing he had experienced before.

The support I got during the Olympics, be it words of advice or messages cheering me on, was incredible and when we competed in the Commonwealth Games, having the home crowd definitely gave us a boost.

Mr Serasinghe is also known for being indulgent, most notably when his 8,000 calorie McDonald’s treat at the end of the Rio Olympics made waves throughout the social media sphere. Though that one instance was excessive, he admits that he does get loose with his diet on the weekends and cannot say no to his mother’s pork curry.

Check out his impressive post-Rio Olympics meal by clicking HERE.

Currently, Mr Serasinghe is focusing on recovering after a hectic three years where he had to compete in around 20 tournaments to qualify for Rio and then prepare for GC2018. Even with his lighter workload on the court, Mr Serasinghe is not resting on his laurels.

He has shifted his focus to his academics and future, looking to finish his bachelor’s in business information systems at Monash University and his internship as a technology consulting intern at Australia Post’s head office in Melbourne.

Photo credit: Badminton Thai Today

Mr Serasinghe also gives back to the community whenever he can. In between work and university, he goes back to his badminton club in Melbourne, HP Badminton, and coaches young athletes. Mr Serasinghe gives them first hand advice from his experience in both the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.

To budding badminton athletes, Sawan advises that being organised always helped him a lot while he was a full-time student and athlete.

I know the badminton scene in Australia isn’t the biggest but if they focus, I think most of these young athletes will be surprised at how far they can make it in badminton.

Follow Sawan Serasinghe’s journey on Facebook HERE.

Anisha Mistry

As the Editor of CulturalPulse, Anisha is passionate about listening to, writing and sharing stories of Australia's multicultural achievement. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: [email protected]