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Dazzling Dipika - the Golden Woman Swimmer

Sporting Personalities with Ken de Joodt

Sporting Personalities: From the 5th SAF Games in 1991 held in Colombo, there emerged out of the superb Sugathadasa Stadium International swimming pool, two sparkling Sri Lankan swimmers, each wearing the "Champion Gold Cap"!

One was a pretty, dazzling maiden, Dipika Chanmugam, the 'Golden' Woman Swimmer, whose magnificent performances in the waters, won her Seven Gold Medals and Two Silvers, adorning her elegant neck and establishing it as an awesome feat! - while the other was a handsome young man, the 'Golden' Swimming legend Julian Bolling, having won Six Gold Medals, one Silver and one Bronze in the Men's events!


Dipika Chanmugam - Swimming her way to glory

For these brilliant, unmatchable achievements, unquestionably it would have been the delight of the SAF Games Administrators, with one 'simple stroke!' - to crown swimmers Dipika Chanmugam as the "Sportswoman 1991 SAF Games" - and Julian Bolling the "Sportsman 1991 SAF Games"!

Indeed, they were crowned in 'sporting royalty' - just 'skimming' over many other outstanding Athletes and Games participants. Dipika Chanmugam and Julian Bolling were the 'Woman and Man of the Hour' - and the 'toast' of the country!

At the tender age of twelve years, Dipika Chanmugam began her training for competitive swimming meets, under the watchful eye of her Aunt, Tara Bolling, an excellent Coach and disciplinarian.

She practiced only three days a week and on the other days, she spent her time reading her favourite Children's books and playing with 'toy-dolls'! By 1985, Dipika was ready to clinch her first medal, in the 100 m Breast Stroke, at the Asia Age Group Meet held in Bombay (Mumbai), India.

Sri Lanka made it's Olympic debut in 1948. Forty years later in 1988, Dipika at the age of 16 years, had her 'golden' opportunity to make her debut, at Sri Lanka's 10th occasion of participating in the Olympic Games, at Seoul, South Korea. She was selected to represent Sri Lanka in the Women's 100 and 200 metres breast Stroke and the 200 metres Individual Medley. To believe that she was truly at her 1st Olympic Games, seemed like an 'impossible' dream come true!

In 1989, Dipika set-up six National Records, in local swim-meets which stands, unbroken to this day - in the 200 and 400 metres Free-style, 100 and 200 meters Back Stroke, 200 and 400 metres Individual Medley! In this period of time, she was a swimming sensation' who was selected for the 1989 Asia Pacific Swimming Meet in Japan and participated in the 200 metres Free Style, 100 and 200 metres Back Stroke and the 200 metres Individual Medley.

Subsequently in 1990, while she was attending High School, in Hawaii, USA, she continued serious training in her swimming and showed excellent progress with improved qualifying timings. This made her a justifiable choice for the Asian Games in Beijing, China. So, Dipika was selected and flown direct to the Beijing Games without participating in the qualifying trials in Sri Lanka.

Perhaps, Dipika's greatest moments in her swimming career was, without a shadow of doubt, in the 1991 SAF Games, at Colombo! Here again, she was abroad, studying a the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA. With wise consideration given by the Sri Lanka Swimming Authorities, Dipika was selected for six individual events and two relays, based on her excellent timings at the swimming practices in the USA.

She did not have to break her swimming schedules, waste money, effort and study-time, by coming over two months ahead of the Games, just for the qualifying 'trials' and to get back to the USA! Instead, sensible arrangements were made to fly her over from USA to Sri Lanka about two weeks before the start of the Games.

She arrived 'as fresh as a daisy' on time and ready to swim, with a positive goal to win "Gold" for Sri Lanka, in the events she had been nominated for - (like Andrew Abeysinghe from USA did, at the South Asian Games this year), 'no fuss - no big deal'!!

Debutante Dipika 'dived' right into the tough competitive waters and 'stormed' her way through to win her first 'Gold" in the 200 metres Free Style, from Sanjeeta Rao and Archana Patel of India.

Her next "Gold" was in the 100m Back Stroke beating Ashima Shetti (India) and Purnima Sunderasan (Sri Lanka), followed by five more "Golds" in the 200m Back Stroke, 100 and 200m Breast Stroke, 200 and 400m Individual Medley, 'outsplashing' Tehani Weerasinghe and R.M. Dhammika (SL), Urmilla Chettri, Sajini Shetti, Tashina Singhe (all from India). To add to this huge haul of Gold Medals, Dipika won two "Silvers" for Sri Lanka in the 4 x 100m Free Style and 100m Medley.

This turned out to be her best ever performance and deservedly received high accolades, bringing bouquets of joy, fame and glory. Despite all these laurels of honour and praise given to her, Dipika remained humble, giving thanks to God for the great talents given to her. She kept a 'cool' head - and showed no signs of any 'swellings'!

Dipika hails from an outstanding sporting family of her mother Oosha Chanmugam (nee de Saram), also a former Sri Lanka Swimmer and Tennis Champion, youngest daughter of the legendary Cricket Captain, Col. F.C. de Saram and sister of Swimming Champion, Coach and Gold Medallist Tara Bolling (nee de Saram)... and her father, Neil Chanmugam, (S. Thomas, Mt. Lavinia), Sri Lanka's Cricketing star of the 1950's and 60's as well as Golf Captain and President of the RCGC in the eighties.

To add to this 'mini-genealogy', it is of greater interest to know that Julian Bolling and Dipika are children of two sisters, (Tara married Ralph Bolling and Oosha married Neil Chanmugam), which makes Julian and Dipika, "First Cousins"! Now, isn't that amazing... that two 'classy' cousins could counter challenges and together win 16 Medals in one SAF Games...another record, for the Guinness Book of World Records!

Standing tall at 5 feet 9 inches, she has proved herself to be strong in character and beliefs, with great faith in God. In fact, God has made the difference in her life! She was a well-disciplined swimmer and was considered a tremendous 'Team-girl'! Rallying round the girls and boys, she would motivate them to perform to the best of their ability - by singing out encouraging words, cheering them on, in the midst of training or at the competitions itself!

Today, Dipika is the Vice-President of a Marketing Organization in West Virginia, USA. In her spare time she keeps in-touch with the 'swim scene' and offers her services as a Coach, to local High Schools.

For 'pleasure' she plays Golf - but for a more strenuous and gruelling form of sport, she has recently seriously ventured out into 'Triathalons', which involves - 400 metres of swimming, 6 miles of cycling and 1 mile of running! She believes sports does a lot in disciplining one's life and helps in many ways to transform 'little daisies' into becoming 'tough cookies' to face the bigger challenges in life!

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