“Although Speech Olympiad is a prestigious competition, it is not just about competing to win a title; it is an opportunity to grow and spark a change not just in yourself, but in others as well.”
With those beautiful words, the moderators for the evening, Chemini Mallikarachchi and Damsith Adikari, made way for the commencement of the Grand Finale of Speech Olympiad XV.
The 6th of December 2022 was a flurry of activity at University of Moratuwa, the air buzzing with energy, with emotions running high, and a sense of excitement mixed with anxiety all around. Months of meticulous planning and hard work were finally about to bear fruit, as five talented speakers prepared to take on the grand stage that evening, where many exceptional speakers had found their voice before, over the years.
Speech Olympiad, the premier intra-university speech competition organized by the 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. After 2 years of being confined within the borders of a screen, the 15th iteration of Speech Olympiad finally unfolded on a physical stage in all its full grandeur.
Out of a whopping number of more than sixty participants at the preliminary round, twelve contestants were chosen to showcase their eloquence at an extremely competitive semi-final round, following which five finalists were filtered out as the crème de la crème, leaving many in anticipation of a Grand Finale like no other.
No feat can be accomplished without a concerted and genuine effort. Giving it 110%, the finalists worked day and night in the weeks leading up to the finals, working closely with their dedicated mentors, and paying attention to every little detail, to polish and perfect their speeches. They were given the opportunity to learn from the very best, with insightful sessions conducted by experienced resource persons. DTM Kin Ng, Finalist at the 2021 World Champion of Public Speaking, shared his expert knowledge on prepared speech with a host of tips and tricks, and provided his valuable feedback on the finalists’ own prepared speeches during the session which was held in a hybrid format. Gavel Mora’s very own pride and the Champion of Speech Olympiad X, alumni member Kasun Ranasinghe, offered important insight into how to deliver a perfect prepared speech, while TM Praveen Kumarasinghe, yet another illustrious alumnus of Gavel Mora and the Co-Chair of Speech Olympiad XI, conducted a fruitful practice session for the finalists to enhance their skills in speaking impromptu.
With the big day just around the corner, the general public was granted the opportunity to cast their votes for the most popular speaker online via Facebook and Instagram. To add to the excitement, large banners featuring the five finalists were placed strategically throughout the campus on prominent display, not just to gain more publicity for Speech Olympiad XV, but also to ensure that the contestants received the support and recognition they deserved from their peers and friends. The audience was given the chance to vote for their favourite speaker during the contest as well.
The event began with the customary lighting of the oil lamp, followed by the singing of the national anthem. In his opening remarks, the President of the Gavel Club of the University of Moratuwa, Suthira Wijayawardena, warmly welcomed everyone to witness the Grand Finale of Speech Olympiad XV.
The official souvenir, titled “The Orator,” was launched at the event. The publication serves as a memento of Speech Olympiad XV as well as a commemoration of the glorious history of the coveted shield. The tireless efforts of the souvenir committee, headed by Yathursiya Ganenthirarajan, are truly worthy of praise. The souvenir was ceremoniously handed over to the Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Chief Judge, Deans, Heads of Departments, Staff Advisor Dr. Sigera, and the representatives from Unilever.
The chief guest, Deputy Vice Chancellor of University of Moratuwa, Dr. D.P. Chandrasekara, was then invited on stage to address the gathering.
It was finally the moment we had all been waiting for! Following a video featuring the five finalists, the controls were handed over to the Contest Chair, Shehan Paul, 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, in the order in which they spoke, were:
- Dulmi Fonseka
- Amirthavarshani Ananthan
- Selani Indrapala
- Malintha Fernando
- Thulasithan Gnanenthiram
Dulmi Fonseka, with a tote bag representing her emotional baggage, spoke about how we should revisit and reassess unresolved emotions and past experiences that we have carried with us in order to feel lighter and brighter in her speech, “A Little Bit Lighter.”
“Will It Be a Sixer?” was the question that had all eyes in the audience sparkling in anticipation, as Amirthavarshani Ananthan expressed her passion for cricket, emphasizing the power of hope and determination in achieving our dreams.
With an ambarella seed in her hand, Selani Indrapala walked us through her journey of realization that the more one loses in life, the more one grows, giving us much to think about with her inspiring speech, “Throw It or Grow It.”
With his speech “On Your Mark, Get Set, Go,” Malintha Fernando efficaciously encouraged the audience to focus and keep running towards the finishing line, despite the obstacles and barriers that obstruct our path forward.
Tugging at our heartstrings, Thulasithan Gnanenthiram reminded the audience that a gesture as simple as a smile could brighten someone’s day or even turn their lives around, with his powerful speech titled “Third Row to My Left”.
Amidst deafening applause, the prepared speech round came to an end, bringing with it a short break where everyone present was offered refreshments.
As everyone took their seats once more, the five finalists were escorted out of the auditorium, into a separate area, signaling that the impromptu speech round was about to begin.
One by one, the contestants showcased their eloquence on stage, as they tackled the topic given to them: “Some People Feel the Rain. Others Just Get Wet.”
Dulmi effortlessly put into words the importance of following our passions and experiencing life fully, feeling the rain, rather than simply going with the flow and getting caught up in the current of life, as most others do.
Amirthavarshani had a unique message to share, shocking the audience with the news of a positive pregnancy test! She went on to compare our dreams to a child; a child we should protect, nurture, and deliver with care, enjoying the experience rather than enduring it.
“You alone should decide whether you get drenched in the rain or whether you dance in it”, was Selani’s piece of advice, as she pointed out that we can still choose to be happy even if we do not get everything we wish for in life, in her thought-provoking speech.
Taking us back to his childhood, when he dreamt of becoming a pilot, Malintha spoke about how challenges are the rains and storms in our lives; instead of getting wet, we should rather feel the rain, emerging from it stronger than ever before.
Through the story of an ascetic and a woodcutter in conversation with a person who had attained nirvana, Thulasithan brought to our attention how perspective plays a vital role in what we achieve in life, reminding us that it lies in our own hands, whether we see the negative or positive side of things.
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 XV.
Representing Unilever, the strategic partner and sponsor of Speech Olympiad XV, Ms. Hiruni Perera 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, “Your Voice, the Spark of Change.” 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 participants of the preliminary round and the semi-finalists, respectively.
As the panel of judges and the tally counters left the hall to finalise the scores, the Contest Chair held an engaging interview with the five finalists on stage, during which they spoke of their inspiring and rather amusing Speech Olympiad experiences and humorously reflected upon the backstories of the speeches that had captivated the audience earlier that evening.
Addressing the audience with her inspiring words, DTM Zamani Nazeem, the Chief Judge of Speech Olympiad XV, praised the motives and efforts behind the annual contest and encouraged the members of Gavel Mora to keep making a positive impact through the work that they do.
As the Contest Chair took his place in the middle of the stage once more, this time with the much-awaited results of the contest in his hand, the anticipation and tension in the hall were almost tangible; it became so silent you could have heard a pin drop!
With the highest number of votes, Selani Indrapala secured the title of Most Popular Speaker, amidst loud cheers from her enthusiastic supporters present in the audience.
Malintha Fernando was crowned Best Prepared Speaker for his speech, “On Your Mark, Get Set, Go.”
Even before the applause died away, Malintha Fernando was back on stage, proudly receiving the award for Best Impromptu Speaker, exemplifying his diverse talents in public speaking.
Achieving one of the dreams that she had once stuffed in her bag, Dulmi Fonseka was crowned the Second Runner-Up of Speech Olympiad XV, proving her point with a large grin as she accepted her award.
Selani Indrapala emerged as the First Runner-Up, for her performance at the contest was truly outstanding.
The reigning Champion of Speech Olympiad, Niruthikka Sritharan, 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 Best Impromptu Speaker, the Champion of Speech Olympiad XV was none other than Malintha Fernando himself.
Bringing the proceedings to a close, Co-Chair of Speech Olympiad XV, Umesha Thilakarathna, delivered the vote of thanks, after which the hall erupted with celebratory cheers, marking the end of yet another successful edition of Speech Olympiad.
There was much to celebrate, yet the time constraints meant that the merrymaking unfortunately had to be postponed to a later date. Subsequently, the post-SO themed meeting was held virtually a week later, where the Co-Chairs, Oshan Yalegama, Umesha Thilakarathna, and Inodee Fernando, gave their vote of thanks in Sinhala as per the Gavel Mora tradition. It was another opportunity for the winners, the organising committee, role players, and the executive board to come together, albeit online, to reminisce and have a good laugh about their favourite memories of Speech Olympiad XV.
Speech Olympiad would certainly not have been a success if not for the continuous dedication and sheer effort that the entire organising committee put in, headed by the project Co-Chairs and guided by the President, Suthira Wijayawardena, and the executive board of Gavel Mora.
The name of another Champion is etched onto the shield, and we congratulate and wish all the participants and winners of Speech Olympiad XV the very best, with hopes of many more magnificent iterations of this esteemed contest in the years to come.