The devils on wheels: how two Sri Lankan girls succeeded at SHEMUD 2016

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We first came across two fearless Sri Lankan girls making headlines with their SHEMUD participants a few weeks ago.  Their participation in the world’s first all-women extreme 4X4 challenge was going viral- and it was for a good reason. The girls were placed second runner’s up at the international event and already gearing for up for next season.

What is SHEMUD?

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SHEMUD is the world’s first all-women extreme 4×4 challenge event that is scheduled to take place in the rainforests of Malaysia every year. The venue is known for its natural habitat and breathtaking campsite overlooking a river and waterfall. The annual event calls for female competitors from around the world to showcase their strengths and passion for a 4×4 challenge.

Making Sri Lanka proud!

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Ashvitha Wickrama (20) and Maryse Navaratne (25), are professional Go Kart Racing drivers who were also the Champion & Runner-up (respectively) in the Ladies category during the 2015 racing season. They also created history as the first all-female team to participate in the Sri Lanka 6hr endurance race in 2016. Asthvitha is currently reading for a degree in Automotive Engineering and Maryse Navaratne has graduated with a double degree in International Business & Management and is employed at Suriya Resort as Asst. Manager Sales & Marketing.

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We spoke to the ladies, following their victorious return and questioned them on their passion for professional motorsports.

Q: What inspired you to try out?

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The passion we have for motorsports is enormous. We have been around racing our entire lives, it’s in our blood and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Karting has been the foundation for our racing careers, but we have motivated ourselves to push the boundaries and it had always been our dream to represent our country on the international racing stage. SHEMUD was our first ever extreme and international mud challenge, and the first time an all-girls team represented Sri Lanka in an International 4×4 challenge.

Q: Do you any advice for aspiring ladies out there?

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We feel that that being different is a good thing. Racing is not a sport only for men, but for women as well. We proved that women too can excel in extreme 4×4 sports like our male counterparts.  Don’t ever give up on something that you love just because people may think a girl is not strong enough or it’s not suitable for her. If you work hard enough and love something just as enough, anything is possible! You can even give the boys a run for their money!

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the SHEMUD Experience?

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It was a challenging 9 days at the rainforest in Malaysia. SHEMUD has not only brought out our competitive side but also team spirit. That is the true beauty of 4X4 extreme sports such as SHEMUD. We competed against each other in rough terrain and harsh environments but at the end of the day, we came together to help others in need and share experiences outside the tracks. We experienced joy, tears, anger, frustration, and exhaustion throughout the race. It was a process if racing, experiencing, discovering and performing better at each stage. But at the end of the day, it was all worth it, from communal camping to repairing the vehicle till dawn, it was indeed a whole new unforgettable experience we cannot put into words. The competition was tough between our opponents, anyhow amidst it all, we managed to work our way up to the podium which was truly an honor to carry the Sri Lankan flag to an international platform, which proved to all that “teamwork makes the dream work”

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Written by Nimra Savanghan

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Nimra is an instagram junkie who enjoys occasional feminism and outwitting her husband. When not watching Star Wars, LOTR, Jurassic Park and GOT reruns for the millionth time, she can be found screaming at her kids with a cup of coffee in her hand.

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