I was 8 years old and competing in my first sports meet when a pastor gave my parents a word from the Lord about me. This pastor was visiting Sri Lanka, and though I was too young to understand what she was talking about, my parents held onto what she said: that one day I will bring pride to Sri Lanka; that one day I will bring a medal to Sri Lanka.
None of us knew I had a God-gifted talent for running. The first person to see the talent in me was my mother, who is also the person who has always been with me through all my ups and downs in life.
I was a swimmer first; I was never interested in athletics. I loved swimming and never imagined I would stop, but my mom and father knew me better than I knew myself, so I began competing in athletics. I continued in athletics and soon became the under-9 champion in Sri Lanka. I started personal training with my coach and began to get better and better.
At 17 years old I first represented Sri Lanka at the 2018 South Asian Junior Games, where I won bronzes in the 100m and 200m races and gold in the 4x100m relay. Since then, my life has been different.
The most unforgettable competition I’ve ever had was at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This was my first world event for the 200m race and I was so scared. In the first stage of the competition, I was too nervous and my body was not reacting well under pressure. I finished the race by placing fifth in that heat and 16th in the world.
I was heartbroken because I couldn’t even run a personal-best time, but I didn’t give up. I had a lot of support from people back in Sri Lanka and I knew my coach would always be behind me, supporting me. I also knew my mom and dad would never fail to push me forward. But most of all, I knew Jesus didn’t want me to give up what I started. He wanted me to see the prophecy coming true.
I didn’t give up; instead, I had to rise up. I had to keep myself together and trust in the Lord and in His perfect timing. On the day of the final race, I ran and finished in first place in my heat with a new personal best of 24.07 seconds! I was ranked as the ninth-fastest junior in the world for the 200m — the fastest in Asia and South Asia, and the fastest in Sri Lankan junior athletic history after Olympians Susanthika Jayasinghe and Damayanthi Darsha! I knew this was God’s prophetic words, spoken through that pastor.
I’m nothing without Jesus Christ and I will never be ashamed to call His name out. I’m proud of who I’ve become today, but I also know I have a long way to go. This was just the beginning. One day, I hope to become the world’s best runner and make my Jesus, my nation, my family and my coaches proud.
—Shelinda Jansen – Sri Lanka track and field athlete