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Julia Swedish | Pic by Ravi Nagahawatte

“It is also so much important for Sri Lanka to think of playing foreigners who can qualify through the IRB residential rule to wear the national jersey. Otherwise there is no chance of Sri Lanka playing at a future Rugby World Cup,” she said.

Former gymnast and rugby enthusiast Julia Swedish was in Sri Lanka a few days ago to conduct a series of strength and conditioning sessions and was impressed by the enthusiasm kids show in pursuing this sport played with the oval shaped ball. Julia said she had problems with communicating, but was a little concerned because she didn’t want participants at the session to lose the message that strength and conditioning is absolutely vital for success in sport.

She told Nation that she was bowled over by the beauty that the island has to offer foreign tourists. However, there is of course an inspiring reason behind her visit to Sri Lanka. She wishes to move to this island nation in the future with two of her sons who live in Romania with the motive of helping them pursue studies and sport. “I googled my need which is a country to play rugby and continue studies and guess what I found…Sri Lanka topping the list,” said Julia whose second son Alexander (18) has huge ambitions to come to this island and represent the national team.

Julia was however a little disappointed when she came to Sri Lanka and found out that the governing body for rugby (SLRFU) had taken a decision to ban expatriates from representing clubs in the domestic tournaments. She said the situation was much more promising in the country two years ago because clubs were allowed to field foreigners. Two seasons ago Alexander was in Sri Lanka and got a taste of the island’s rugby by practicing with members of Navy Sports Club. He is at present studying philosophy and practicing with the national rugby team of Romania.

Julia is a parent whose son is a competitive rugby player. She said mothers should do a study of the sport their sons are involved in and raise awareness. “The key to success in sport is knowledge. Otherwise you’ll find screaming mothers at rugby matches,” she affirmed during an interview done with this newspaper at The Beach Boutique in Pamunugama.

She wanted her children to get accustomed to a simple life. That’s why she took two of her three sons with her when she returned to Romania from USA, where she is also a citizen. She said she was fortunate to have a husband, Charles, (Who lives in US with their eldest son), who has allowed her the opportunity to travel the world.

Her life story is pretty interesting. She was a gymnast in Romania, but when she knew that there was not going to be any glories for her in this sport she joined a circus troupe and began touring the word. Since Romania had little opportunities for her, she decided to decamp in America when the circus troupe she was performing for-Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey-made a stop in the country known as ‘land of opportunities’. She was 15 years old then. Julia claimed that one year later she was granted US citizenship at the time Ronald Regan was President of America. Julia doesn’t wish to see her children go through the struggles she endured, but said that she took her sons back to Romania to teach them the simple way of living.

She said she  developed an immense liking for the sandy beaches, mountains, fresh fish and the variety of fruits available in the island. But she said it was worrying to see women being overweight and a sizeable portion of men leading a sedentary life and being heart patients, despite the country sporting facilities ideal for healthy living.

Julia said that Sri Lanka should encourage expatriates to come and share their knowledge. “It is also so much important for Sri Lanka to think of playing foreigners who can qualify through the IRB residential rule to wear the national jersey. Otherwise there is no chance of Sri Lanka playing at a future Rugby World Cup,” she said.