By Savin Gunawardena
Speech Olympiad, the most coveted intra-university speech contest of University of Moratuwa is back for the 14th time and it’s your chance to share your story and leave a legacy. Now that a general idea about Speech Olympiad and the nature of the speech contest has been explained to you, you would be wondering why you should take part in Speech Olympiad. Simply put, what’s in it for you?
We have stories of four great speakers who have made it all the way to the final stage in different seasons of Speech Olympiad, and even grabbed the championship. They take us through how they were inspired to participate in Speech Olympiad and what they gained from participating in it.
An Adventurous Journey
“I wanted to test my limits, go beyond my comfort zone, and discover myself.”
Mohamed Yasir ( Champion – SOVIII, 2nd Runner-Up – SOVII, 1st Runner-Up – SOVI )
For Mohamed Yasir, the Champion of Speech Olympiad VIII, it was his passion for public speaking that motivated him to participate in the speech competition. Though he feared speaking in front of an audience, his passion was too strong to let the fear hold him back. Having been new to public speaking contests, he knew that it was time to test his limits, expand his comfort zone, and see what he was capable of. In summary, Mohamed Yasir says that it was his own decision to embark on a journey of self-discovery that led him towards participating in Speech Olympiad.
The experiences that Mohamed Yasir gained by making it to the finals of Speech Olympiad VI & VII were the driving factors that enabled him to become the Champion of Speech Olympiad VIII. Speech Olympiad has helped him to embrace the challenging but adventurous nature of public speaking and emerge stronger and more confident than before. He says that the journey of Speech Olympiad taught him the importance of being committed to one’s cause, regardless of their experience and skill. Now a prominent personality, competing in numerous public speaking contests and taking up multiple leadership roles in the Toastmasters fraternity of Sri Lanka, he certainly exemplifies this statement. Speech Olympiad has also played a significant role in moulding Mohamed Yasir into the humble and grateful person he is today.
A Life-Changing Decision
“I was held hostage past midnight until I wrote my speech. It ended up changing my life.”
Malindi Jayathunga ( 1st Runner-Up and Best Prepared Speaker – SOXI )
Malindi Jayathunga, 1st Runner-Up of Speech Olympiad XI recalls the memories of how she was forced to stay up past midnight to write a speech in order to get herself registered to Speech Olympiad. It was her good friend Kasun Ranasinghe, the Champion of Speech Olympiad X who pushed her towards participating in the speech contest. Having been a timid person who was hesitant to go in front of a crowd and deliver a speech, she says that she was not happy about it at first. However, in retrospect, Malindi believes that Speech Olympiad was the turning point in her university life and that exact speech which she wrote in the middle of the night helped her reach greater heights, including becoming the 1st Runner-Up at Speech Olympiad XI. This whole encounter being unplanned and quite accidental, she quips that participating in Speech Olympiad was the best decision someone else had taken on behalf of her.
Participating in Speech Olympiad has been instrumental for Malindi in shedding her reticence. It was Speech Olympiad that transformed her from that timid character into a confident public speaker and communicator. She also says that the effective communication skills that were taught by her mentors – be it the structure of a speech, building up a story, or the delivery, have been tremendously helpful in her academia as well. The confidence she gained by participating in Speech Olympiad drove her towards speech competitions in other universities where she had the chance of making new friends. With her newfound interest in storytelling after Speech Olympiad, Malindi has made it a career path as well. She has also been a communication coach for several junior batches in her department after the recognition she received from Speech Olympiad.
Inspired by the Finalists
“It’s all about how people help other people become the best version of themselves.”
Amaya Dharmasiri ( 1st Runner-Up and Best Impromptu Speaker – SOXII )
Amaya Dharmasiri, 1st Runner-Up of Speech Olympiad XII shares an atypical story of how she was inspired to participate in the speech competition. Unlike the stories we often hear, she was introduced to Speech Olympiad even before she was introduced to the Gavel Club. It was during their Pre-Academic term in 2017 that her colleague Dulinda Perera suggested that they apply for Speech Olympiad XI. Though she couldn’t make it far in Speech Olympiad that year, she had been there at the Semi-Finals as well as the Finals to witness and cheer her friend Dulinda Perera who ultimately became the Champion of SO XI. She says that seeing the finalists up on stage at the Civil Auditorium where all eyes land on them as they make the stage their own, inspired her to participate in the speech competition again. That, coupled with the confidence she had already mustered up by participating in the preliminary rounds of Speech Olympiad XI were what drove her towards her achievements at SO XII.
When she first took part in Speech Olympiad, Amaya was not new to the stage; she was, however, new to public speaking. With the help of the immensely supportive Gavel family, she was able to broaden her knowledge in public speaking as well as discover about herself and her capabilities. Not having had been a frequent communicator in English, she is certain that participating in Speech Olympiad immensely helped her in enhancing her effective use of language. Speech Olympiad is not the usual one-day speech contest but something that spans for almost 2 months, and Amaya considers this to be a journey. She has gathered a multitude of memories from late-night practices to being cheered on by a jubilant crowd and dearly cherishes them.
First Time Contestant and Champion
“Because of Speech Olympiad, I gained so many things that I never even dreamt of having.”
Jayoda Dissanayake ( Champion, Best Prepared Speaker, Best Impromptu Speaker, and Most Popular Speaker – SOXIII )
Jayoda Dissanayake, the Champion of Speech Olympiad XIII says that back in August 2020, she was new to the Gavel Club itself let alone Speech Olympiad. Though registration for the intra-university speech contest was opened just as soon as she joined the club, the thought of participating in it had not crossed her mind. Not having participated in a public speaking contest before, the reluctance had held her back. However, her attitude towards participating in Speech Olympiad completely changed when she heard about a past finalist who competed in the speech competition 3 years in a row, to eventually win the championship in his 3rd year. This was the story that inspired her to participate in Speech Olympiad. This inspiration was complemented by the motivation given to her by the persuasive Gavelliers who believed in her. In her own words, it was the “people at Gavel” which inspired her to participate in Speech Olympiad.
Having won the Championship in her first-ever Speech Olympiad, Jayoda looks back at her experience with a heart full of gratitude. She says that her journey with Speech Olympiad was nothing short of phenomenal. From being completely new to public speaking into becoming the Speech Olympiad Champion, she could see herself improve exponentially. For her, Speech Olympiad was the gateway in realizing her capabilities and potential. Of all the countless things she was able to gain from SO, she makes a special note of three things – the knowledge imparted by the mentors, the self-confidence she inculcated, and the friendships that were strengthened.
These powerful stories are testament to the fact that, if we were to put into a list what you would gain by participating in Speech Olympiad, the list will undoubtedly never end.
Have you decided to participate in Speech Olympiad? Or are you still looking for that inspiration?
Let this blog article be your inspiration, to participate in Speech Olympiad, test your capabilities, expand your horizons, and start exploring the wonders of public speaking. Get yourself registered for Speech Olympiad XIV today. Your legacy awaits.