TODAY, I am, featuring on an outstanding sportswoman, who has brought credit and honour to this country as a sports star, coach and sports administrator.
If a sports personality can represent his or her country in one sports discipline, it is an achievement. But, here is a sports woman star who represented Sri Lanka, not only in one sport discipline, but in two - Swimming and Squash. Therefore, in short, she is a double international - a great achievement indeed.
Who is the sports-woman?
She is Yasmin Zarook.
Her parents - M. L. M. Ahamed and I. Ahamed. She was born to a family of one brother and four sisters.
Little Yasmin started schooling at St. Bridget's Convent, Colombo in 1958 and left in 1969. It was at St. Bridget's, she started her sports activities. As a 6-year-old little girl, she participated in Throwing the Cricket ball and she came first. Then, she took part in cycling.
Yasmin's forte was Swimming in school. At the age of 11 years, she broke the National Record for Breast stroke in the under 14 category.
"I was very fortunate, that I was under an Australian Swimming coach at that time. I excelled as a school girl from 1964 to 1966 and had the proud distinction of representing the country for three consecutive years.
It was Indo-Sri Lanka Swimming Meet. My coach was Tony Wall from Australia. I still remember the residential camp we had at Gurutalawa S. Thomas' College helped me a lot," stated Yasmin Zarook.
She played Netball and took part in Athletics and Tennis at St. Bridget's. She was an all-round sports woman.
As Muslims, the girls and ladies are conservative and rarely you come across a Muslim lass taking upto sports in a big way.
"As a community. girls rarely took a keen interest in sports. My father did not oppose my taking part in sports. In the same way, he did not encourage me. But, my brother an old Thomian Faiz Ahmed gave me encouragement. I never given up," stated Yasmin Zarook.
In 1972, Yasmin married a leading Criminal Lawyer from Matara - Razik Zarook. An old boy of St. Servatious College, Matara, he was a keen sportsman, who encouraged sports in a big way.
I can remember that when he was the Chairman of CWE, he gave a helping hand to many young sportsmen and sportswomen. He is a thorough gentleman and a fine human being. Today, he is a leading criminal lawyer in Matara.
"After marriage, I played Tennis with my husband and I was crowned as the Southern Province Women Tennis Champion. I won the Mixed Doubles with Colone Devanayagam as my partner. This is the beginning of my racket sports," stated Yasmin Zarook.
After they came to Colombo to settle down, she became a member of Sri Lankan Ladies Squash Federation. In Colombo, she met Mrs. Nain, wife of Lanka Oberoi (Cinnamon) General Manager and she really motivated her in Tennis and Squash.
"At the beginning, the Ladies Squash Federation, comprised some outstanding players like Padmini Samarasinghe, Damayanthi Ralwatta, Siritunga, Sujatha Nadasen, Nilufour Arasakumar, Mrs. Eabo Pteris etc. They were all instrumental in taking this game to girls and ladies.
Yasmin was the undisputed Queen of Sri Lanka Squash for nine consecutive years from 1992 to 2000. She captained the four Asian Championships - 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th held in Bombay, Jordan, Malaysia (8th and 9th) respectively and represented Sri Lanka and captained Asian Cup Squash Championship in Malaysia.
Yasmin Zarook's professional qualifications in Squash is highly commendable. She holds level 1, 2 and 3 certificates awarded by the Asian Squash Federation.
Further, she attended world coaching conferences held in Malaysia, Australia, Egypt, Malmo-Sweden and was the National Coach for Junior and Senior Teams in 1995-1997. She trained boys and girls for SAFF games which were held in Islamabad, Pakistan, July, October 2001.
Presently, Yasmin Zarook trains the Squash players of Royal College, Vishaka Vidyalaya and Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya. Further, she is at the moment coach and train over 20 individual players of whom many are ranked in their individual age group. Many have also represented Sri Lanka.
Further, she was a swimming coach for Vishaka, Museus and Bishops Colleges. Her achievements as a sportswoman in Squash are many. She was the winner of the Plate Events in Jordan.
In 1996, she was awarded the "Robbialac Kreeda Sammanaya" for Squash by the Ministry of Sports. After retiring from the game, she took upto coaching and Squash Administration.
In June 2001, Yasmin Zarook was appointed as the Sri Lanka National Coach. Then in 2003, National Schools Squash Association appointed her as the Coach. She was the Chief Instructress for the ASF Level I, Coaching course held on October 11-20, 2002 in Sri Lanka.
Further, she was the official referee for the Junior World Championships held in India in December 2002.
She was the National Coach for Commonwealth Games held in Melbourne, Australia in 2006.
Otters Aquatic Club conference Yasmin Zarook the Roll of Honoured for her achievements in Swimming and Squash on 20th May 1998. Yasmin and Razik's only daughter is Rishdha Zarook - a lawyer by profession. She is married to Mafaz Ishaq.