En route to the Grand Finale: Semi-Final Round of SO XVI – SO Blog Series

By Illampoornan Raguparan

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.”

With these words, Ilampoornan Raguparan set the stage for the Semi-Finals of Speech Olympiad XVI. On the 15th of October, the ENTC-01 Hall was filled with an audience eagerly awaiting the speeches. The 12 semi-finalists who were present on that day had come through a tough round of preliminaries, which had around many participants taking part. In the days following the preliminaries, the semi-finalists attended workshops by distinguished Toastmasters, received mentoring from the best mentors in Gavel Club of University Moratuwa, and dedicated a huge amount of time to fine-tune their speeches for a competitive semifinal round. Furthermore, they specifically took measures to improve their impromptu speaking skills, as the semifinals would definitely test their quick wit under pressure.

While the semi-finalists were honing their speaking abilities, the Co-Chairs and the Organising Committee worked tirelessly day and night to make the 2nd stage of the Speech Olympiad XVI a grand success. After two weeks of intense preparations, it was finally time for the much-anticipated semifinals. The semi-final round of Speech Olympiad XVI consisted of two rounds; Prepared Speech Round and Impromptu Speech Round.

Prepared Speech Round

After welcoming everyone, the Contest Master, Malintha Fernando, officially began the prepared speech round by introducing the 12 semi-finalists:

  1. Adeepa Kularathna
  2. Chathura Gunasekara
  3. Lakindu Kariyawasam
  4. Saai Syvendra
  5. Afrah Rumie
  6. Pasindu Weerasinghe
  7. Poobalarajah Varun
  8. Oshan Yalegama
  9. Damsith Adikari
  10. Hasindu Warnapura
  11. Amirthavarshani Ananthan
  12. Sasindi Pieris

Adeepa Kularathna first came on stage and delivered a heart-stirring speech titled “Prove them wrong.” He set the stage with inspiring words detailing how he overcame his life struggles as an amputee. Then, Chathura came on stage with the story of Chamara, which served as a metaphor for his own life. In “Playing it Safe,” he expresses his passion for music, which is similar to the heartfelt love Chamara had for a girl.

Next, the magician Lakindu made an appearance on stage. He captured the attention of the audience with a story about how he had come to realize that pursuing perfectionism is futile. He then capped off his speech ‘Perfect Illusion’ by demonstrating an illusion on stage. Saai spoke in a thundering voice regarding the uncertainty in life he felt during the pandemic. His speech “Beyond the Summit” described how he realized the journey he went through was more cherishable than the summits he had conquered.

Afrah kept her audience in her theatrically expressed speech. In the speech titled ‘Allow yourself to grow,’ she recalls how toxic competition had twisted the perspective she had about her colleague. Pasindu, in his speech ‘The Key,’ relayed his story of letting go of his fears and attempting Public speaking.

Next, we had a very relatable speech regarding sibling rivalry. Varun delivered a humorous speech with an expressive voice and entertained the audience with his “Love, Laughter, and Little Fights.” The “Brilliant” Oshan recounted an unhealthy mindset he used to have. His speech, also titled “Brilliant,” portrayed how he came to realize that always striving to be the best in academics had a detrimental effect on him. Next, it was Damsith who mesmerised the gathering. Through his voice and body movements, he was able to narrate the toxic relationship he had with his colleague. Although the underlying theme is very similar to Afrah’s speech, it was interesting how their contrasting delivery styles made their speeches unique and memorable.

Hasindu’s speech was titled “Are you ready?”. Through the recounting of his own story, he urged the audience to not be reluctant and to take hold of opportunities as they come. Amirthavarshani spoke about how her friends helped her push through a tough patch in her life. In her speech titled, “Do you have a lighter?” she encourages her audience to help others through their tough times. In her speech titled “Balance,” Sasindi explained how balance is important in life. She insisted that everyone should focus on all sectors of life to live a complete life.

With that, the prepared speech round concluded, and the competition resumed after a short break with the impromptu speech topic.

Impromptu Speech Round  

The impromptu speech round began with the contest master reading out the rules. Initially, all contestants were in a separate room. When their turn to speak came up, they were escorted to the room by the Sergeant at Arms and were given the topic there with 2 minutes to prepare. “The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step” was the topic which all speakers had to speak on. With quick wit and excellent improvisation, all contestants spoke about their own success stories, as the audience listened to them in awe.

While the results were being processed, a musical entertainment session was presented by some members of the Gavel Club. The contest chairs and all role players in the organizing committee enjoyed the music with the knowledge that another amazing semi-final was nearing its conclusion. All the semi-finalists had delivered amazing speeches which were the result of week-long practices and the utmost dedication of their mentors directed towards honing the contestants’ speeches.

You could sense the excitement and anxiety of all those who were present building up. By the time the Chief Judge announced the five finalists, the anticipation had peaked in the room, and the room roared with cheers while the finalists were being announced. The day concluded with everyone praising the semi-finalists and wishing the finalists the best of luck in their journey to attain the glorious title of Speech Olympiad XVI.

  • Finalists – Amirthavarshani Ananthan, Afrah Rumie, Damsith Adikari, Lakindu Kariyawasam, Saai Syvendra
  • Reserved Finalist – Adeepa Kularathna

Quoting the words of the event’s moderator: ‘A good event never ends in the world. They take only a pause and keep us waiting for the next. See you all at the finals!’