“Vaulting Queen” Dreams of Returning to Athletics Amid Housemaid Job in Dubai

Sachini Perera, a top Sri Lankan athlete renowned for setting national records in pole vault, has temporarily put her sports career on hold while working as a housemaid in Dubai to support her family back home. The 24-year-old athlete made the difficult decision after Sri Lanka faced a severe currency crisis and mounting medical expenses for her mother’s long-term care.

Despite dedicating herself to household chores during the day and taking care of a young child, Perera remains determined to pursue her dreams of winning a gold medal on the world stage as a pole vaulter. She diligently follows a weekly strength training schedule provided by her coach in Sri Lanka, determined to keep her skills sharp while balancing her responsibilities.

Perera’s situation gained attention when a Sri Lankan television channel highlighted her story, sparking public outrage and criticism of authorities for not doing enough to retain talented athletes like her. Following the media coverage, Alexi Gunasekera, Sri Lanka’s consul general in Dubai, stepped in to help find Perera a sports-related job in the emirate so she can focus on her training.

The economic collapse in Sri Lanka prompted hundreds of thousands of people, including Perera, to seek employment abroad, particularly in Gulf nations. Despite facing criticism on social media for working as a housemaid, Perera is resolute in her decision, emphasizing that she took the job to support her family and provide long-term care for her mother.

Expressing concern for fellow athletes who struggle to make ends meet despite winning medals for Sri Lanka, Perera hopes to shed light on their challenges and advocate for support. She believes that her story is just one among many, urging people to be aware of the difficulties faced by athletes in her country.

Perera exercises in Safa Park in Dubai to stay fit as her aim is to set international records in the pole vault. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Fortunately, the Sri Lankan government has taken note of Perera’s predicament, and with the assistance of Dubai sports authorities, they are exploring ways to support her training while securing suitable employment opportunities. Mr. Gunasekera expressed confidence in Perera’s talent and determination, believing that clubs or schools in the UAE could aid her in achieving her sporting aspirations.

Despite her longing to return to the track and resume her athletic pursuits, Perera remains grateful to her current employers, who have been supportive of her training endeavors. As she faces the challenges of being away from the sport she loves, she continues to hold on to the hope that one day, step by step, she will soar once again and make her mark as the one girl from Sri Lanka who wins an international medal for pole vault.

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