The 2018 Fillipi Spirit Award winner is Amidu Silva is a chemical engineering student at the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka.

World Rowing: What attracted you to start rowing?
Amidu Silva: My love for rowing began with my neighbour’s rowing heroics for St.Thomas College back when I was young. I had my school education in Royal College and Royal-Thomian regatta is one of the biggest rowing events in Sri Lanka and I never missed watching it each year. I was amazed by the beauty and discipline of the sport and always wanted to do it myself but unfortunately it was pretty tough to follow through at school with all the academic work. When I found out University of Moratuwa (UoM) had rowing, joining the crew was basically the first thing I did!

WR: What body of water do you row on?
AS: We do on the water practices at Bolgoda Laka.  Beire Lake and Diyawanna Oya are the places where rowing is actively happening.

WR: Describe your typical day.
AS: I’m currently facing my final semester examinations of my degree programme and my tenure as Captain of University of Moratuwa Rowing Crew (UMRC) has ended along with my rowing career for UoM. So these days, I’m quite involved with academic related work. But when I was rowing for UoM, a typical weekday involved practices starting at 5.30am at our boatyard (for either on the water rowing or erging) and ending around 8am. Then I’d be off to lectures from 8.30am-4pm. Then more training (weights, fitness or more rowing depending on the day of the week). Training usually ended around 7.30pm. On weekends, we’d have sessions at Colombo Rowing Club and Diyawanna Rowing Centre.

WR: How many people row at your university club?
AS: Around 30 rowers in both the men’s and women’s crews. UoM rowing started in 1981. The Inter University Regatta began in 1982.

WR: What did you know about rowing before you started?
AS: I didn’t have much knowledge about the sport. I had seen a few races at the Olympics but much of the exposure came because of my neighbours who rowed for their school. I knew it was a very tough sport and needed a lot of commitment and passion.

WR: How do you balance your studies with rowing commitments?
AS: It is a tough ask. I study and complete my academic work during the times I’m not at training since rowing takes up a lot of my day.

WR: From your academic studies is there anything you’ve drawn on to help you with your rowing?
AS: Coming from an engineering background, knowledge in physics and mechanics helped me in making sense of important aspects of rowing like boat balance, power application and curves, buoyancy, biomechanics of a rowing stroke etc.

WR: And what about the other way around, is there anything that you’ve learnt from rowing that’s helped you in engineering?
AS: Rowing taught me a lot about how to manage time, deal with people, multi task which comes in handy with all the academic workload in an engineering degree.

WR: Is there anything about university life that you feel you’re missing out on because of your commitment to rowing?
AS: Rowing is a full-time commitment and I’ve missed out on engaging in other extra-curricular activities like clubs and societies, department functions etc. But in the end, it’s all worth it since you are doing what you love despite all of that.

WR: What are you most proud of in your rowing achievements?
AS: I’d have to pick winning the Boat Race at this year’s Inter Uni regatta. Every oarsman aspires to row and win a Boat Race for their crew and this year it was my 3rd consecutive Boat Race for UoM. Being the captain of the team, on the verge of achieving of a whitewash and of course being the last Inter Uni race that I’d ever row for UoM; it meant a lot to me. My boys were dreamers and they just didn’t want to win it, they wanted to break the Boat Race record as well. I will always remember that final ‘Mora’ cheer that I gave as the winning captain and the celebratory dip in Beire Lake that followed.

Being selected to represent my country at World University Rowing Championships, 2018 along with 4 other team mates of mine was another one of those biggest moments.

WR: What are you most proud of academically?
AS: I’ve secured a GPA of 4.13 up to now. I have been included in the Dean’s List for 7 consecutive semesters and was award as the best engineering student of UoM in years 2016 and 2017 based on my academic performance.

WR: If you could change one thing about the sport of rowing what would that be?
AS: I’d like to see more variations of rowing competitions. Short distances, sprints, mix of indoor and on the water rowing etc. could attract more interest from non-rowing community both as viewers and as potential candidates who might take up rowing. Of course the costs of rowing and its equipment is another limiting factor especially here in Sri Lanka. If these were to be brought down, it’d be more accessible to people and allow institutions to develop rowing more.

WR: What is one thing that your friends don’t know about you?
AS: They know me as this driven and ambitious guy but before I started rowing I used to be a very lazy person who slept till late and slacked off a lot. Rowing changed me in those aspects and I don’t think they know this.

WR: Of World Rowing’s values (Fairness, Teamwork, Inclusiveness, Timelessness, Environmental awareness) that you relate to the most?
AS: I’d have to pick Timelessness. UoM Rowing has been based on values and experiences being shared by past rowers to present and future generations. Along with the coaches, Old Mora (community of past rowers of UMRC) makes a huge impact in developing young oarsmen and women in the club. Senior rowers take it as their responsibility to teach what they know and act as mentors to the novices. I was brought up under these values and I’ve passed on these values on to my younger rowers as well.

WR: What advice would you give to a university student who decides to take up rowing?
AS: Rowing is a beautiful sport and it would change anyone who would pursue it for good. It’s a challenging sport for sure but if you’re passionate about it, you’ll push yourself to work harder and the results will follow. It’ll foster yourself as an all-rounder and gain a new family in your crewmates. If you have decided to take up rowing, don’t look back, you’ve made the right call. It was certainly the best decision I made!

WR: You’ve won a Filippi eight, what do you see the boat being used for in your club?
AS: Currently UMRC operates with an aging fleet of small boats and limited amount rowing equipment. This Filippi Eight will allow the club to give more opportunities to more rowers and help them to train better and be more competitive in their rowing and racing. I hope, it will bring about a new era in Sri Lankan rowing as well with the inclusion of eights into National Championships.