Finals Unveiled: The Triumphs, Laughter, and Roars on the Speech Olympiad Stage! – SO Blog Series

By Javin Manatunge

“In a competition, what matters most isn’t about winning or losing. What matters most is whether you put your heart into it.”

And indeed, the audience this evening was about to witness five powerful orators who put their hearts into turning their whispers into resounding roars.

It was a momentous day, the 25th of October. The entirety of the University of Moratuwa was filled with an air of excitement and emotions with a mixture of anxiety as everyone was buzzing with energy. After months of tirelessly working and planning it was the day one talented speaker would emerge and grab the Speech Olympiad Shield and be crowned the Champion.

Speech Olympiad, the premier intra-university speech competition organized by Gavel Club of University of Moratuwa, has been providing young undergraduates with a platform to reach new levels of oratory excellence since its inception in 2005. The 16th iteration of the Speech Olympiad was about to unfold amidst a grand crowd.

This event, the grand finale, would not have been what it was about to unfold if not for the sleepless nights put in by both the organizing committee and the contestants who gave it their all. The participants worked closely with their mentors to perfect their craft, while many sessions and workshops were conducted by experienced resource persons.

DTM Mohomed Yasir, champion of Speech Olympiad VIII conducted an insightful session on Speech crafting via Zoom. Another decorated alumnus of Gavel Mora, Champion of Speech Olympiad X, Kasun Ranasinghe offered important insights into how to deliver a perfectly prepared speech.

It was the “Speech Olympiad Finals”, buzzing around the university as the banners and posters that could be seen around department buildings were hyping up everyone and adding to the excitement. A large banner featuring the five finalists was placed at the beginning of the path to the Faculty of Architecture where the finals were going to be held, positioned with grandeur, creating a striking presence. The audience was invited to cast their votes for the most popular speaker.

By 4.30 p.m. the Architecture Auditorium was full of a nervous and excited audience, here to witness five stupendous speakers, one final contest, and one glorious title. The moderators of the evening, Sasindi Peiris and Varun Poobalaraja gracefully launched the proceedings, ushering in the start of an exciting chapter in Speech Olympiad.

The event began with the customary lighting of the oil lamp, followed by the singing of the national anthem. In her opening remarks, the President of the Gavel Club of University of Moratuwa, Umesha Tilakaratne warmly welcomed everyone to witness the Grand Finale of Speech Olympiad XVI. The occasion was graced by the chief guest Mr. Santhush Weeraman, a distinguished personality in the music industry, Chief Judge, Deans, Heads of Departments, Staff Advisor Dr. Sigera and the representatives from Unilever.

In the competitive spirit of the contest, a video featuring the five contestants was shown to the audience as they watched in anticipation. Following that, the controls were handed over to the Contest Chair, Selani Indrapala, who read out the rules and regulations of the prepared speech round before introducing each contestant. The order in which the contestants spoke was determined prior to the competition by drawing lots, and the same order was used for both the prepared and impromptu rounds. The five contestants, listed in the order of their speeches, were:

  1. Damsith Adikari
  2. Lakindu Kariyawasam
  3. Afrah Rumie
  4. Saai Syvendra
  5. Amithavarshani Ananthan

The first speaker of the grand event, Damsith Adikari spoke about how he yearned to be the best and the struggles he went through to ultimately release that it is not always about beating others but sometimes we should take a step back and change the way we see things in his speech, “The Best”.

Next up, with a deck of cards in his hands, Lakindu Kariyawasam narrated the story of his journey as a magician and how he wanted to create the “Perfect Illusion”—an endeavour deemed unattainable. Nevertheless, he emphasized the notion that one need not always strive for perfectionism; rather, one should instil faith in oneself and in the mastery of their craft.

Afrah Rumie took the stage by storm as she walked us through her journey of realization that all her life, she’d been envying someone who had wanted nothing but the best for her. Thus, sometimes you are your biggest obstacle to overcome, she said in her inspiring speech, “Cinderella Sings Terribly.”

“One Team! One Goal!”, roared Sai as he made his grand entrance onto the stage as he relived his school days where he had to take some tough life decisions, emphasizing the power of working as a team and its impact on his life.

Bringing the whole audience to laugh, Amithavarshani Ananthan spoke with the audience, about her love for food while she encouraged the audience to do what they love with confidence and never be afraid when doing so in her speech, “The Foodie.”

With that, the prepared speech round came to an end, and a rich thunder of applause followed as the audience was truly captivated and brimming with excitement. It was evident that they thoroughly enjoyed the entertaining speeches.

While the five contestants were escorted out, the judges were given two minutes to mark the ballot.

The chief guest, Mr. Santhush Weeraman, a renowned singer and entrepreneur, addressed the gathering. He imparted valuable advice to the audience while sharing his story of success and emphasizing the importance of doing things differently.

Following this the topic for the impromptu round, “If you could give any message to the world, what would it be?” was announced as the first contestant was brought back into the hall.

All five contestants had unique takes on the topic while they exhibited true eloquence and impressive oratory skills while the audience was captivated by their powerful speeches. The impromptu speech round was followed by a tribute to the seniors, alumni, and resource persons in recognition of their immense support in guiding and mentoring the contestants throughout the course of Speech Olympiad XVI.

Representing Unilever, the strategic partner and sponsor of Speech Olympiad XVI, a beloved alumna of the Gavel Club of University of Moratuwa, Ms. Yashoda Gamage was then invited on stage to share a few words.

The powerful and motivating stories shared during the preliminary and semi-final rounds proved the very essence of the theme of Speech Olympiad XV, “Whisper to Roar.” To recognize and celebrate the talented and courageous speakers who participated in the competition, Staff Advisor and Senior Treasurer, Dr. Indika Sigera was invited to felicitate the 70 participants of the preliminary round and semi-finalists, respectively.

As the judges were finalizing the votes, the five finalists were interviewed during which some interesting and funny questions were asked and equally funny answers were given where they shared their Speech Olympiad experiences. DTM Zameen Saleem, the Chief Judge of Speech Olympiad XVI, addressed the audience, praised the motives and efforts behind the annual contest, and encouraged the members of the club to keep making a positive impact through the work they do.

It was once again the Contest Chair, Selani Indrapala, in the middle of the stage, this time it was for the most awaited moment of the entire evening—the culmination of the entire event. As she ascended the stairs, the hall that was buzzing with laughter and excitement turned into a pin-drop silence!

Lakindu Kariyawasam was crowned as the Most Popular Speaker, as his supporters and the crowd applauded. Lakindu found himself back on stage as he won the Best Prepared Speaker for his speech, “Perfect Illusion.” The Best Impromptu Speaker award was received by Saai Syvendra for his unique take on the Impromptu Speech topic. Amithavarshani Ananthan was crowned the Second Runner-Up of Speech Olympiad XV, proving her point with a large grin as she accepted her award. The place of First Runner-Up was clinched by Saai Syvenrda, for his outstanding performance in both the Prepared and Impromptu speech categories.

The reigning Champion of Speech Olympiad, Malintha Fernando, was then called upon to hand over the coveted shield to the new Champion, and as the audience held its breath, the Contest Chair finally announced the winner of the grand title. Having already won the titles of Best Prepared Speaker and Most Popular Speaker, the Champion of Speech Olympiad XV was none other than Lakindu Kariyawasam himself.

Finishing up the event, Chemini Mallikarachchi, Co-Chair of Speech Olympiad XV, thanked everyone. The hall then filled with cheers, wrapping up another successful Speech Olympiad.

No event would be complete without the photoshoots as everyone rushed onto the stage to snap a picture with the Champion of Speech Olympiad and to capture their own portraits. Finally, everyone huddled together to capture one “Gavel Mora Family” picture. That was certainly the highlight of the day.

Speech Olympiad XVI would certainly not have been a success if not for the continuous dedication and sheer effort that the entire organizing committee put in, headed by the project Co-Chairs and guided by the President, the executive board and everyone else who showed their support.

To celebrate the conclusion of a successful edition of Speech Olympiad, everyone gathered at the Sentra court. Subsequently, the Co-Chairs, Chemini Mallikarachchi, Udula Abeysinghe and Ameera Thiwanka gave their vote of thanks in Sinhala as per the Gavel Mora tradition. There were smiles all around. Everyone was treated to dinner while the organizing committee, role players, and the executive board came together, to reminisce and have a good laugh about their favourite memories of Speech Olympiad XVI. A new champion was crowned, memories were made and whispers were turned into resounding roars as the flagship event of the Gavel Club of University of Moratuwa’s 16th edition came to a close.