“My childhood dream is to compete at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games,” says Nilesh Vaheesan who was awarded the Male Athlete of the Year at the City of Greater Dandenong’s Sports Awards. He seems to be on his way to achieving his dream after becoming the Under-18 Victoria 110m hurdles champion.
Nilesh was born and bought up in Australia, but his family is from Sri Lanka. He is currently studying Year 12 at Wellington Secondary College.
Nilesh got into athletics at the age of 10, but he only started hurdles at 16. “I first started hurdles after placing third at the School Sport Victoria State Championships with improper technique and no prior knowledge of hurdling. This was the starting point that gave me the confidence to start my hurdling career.”
Within just eight months of training, Nilesh won the Under-18 110m hurdles at the Victorian Track and Field Championships, and placed second in the 400m hurdles.
There’s been no looking back since. Nilesh has won many accolades on track but one of his sporting journey’s highlights has been the Australian All schools Championships where he placed eighth in the 110m hurdles and ninth in the 400m hurdles.
“This was a wonderful opportunity,” he said. “I was able to compete beside the nation’s best athletes with invitational athletes from other countries such as China, New Zealand, New Caledonia and Fiji.”
According to Nilesh, sports is a vital part of Australian culture, as schools play a wide range of sport to ensure students are kept active. But he also says that many sports such as athletics do not get the same kind of funding as cricket, football or rugby.
“Australian athlete Sally Pearson, American hurdler Aries Merritt and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt were my childhood role models,” he said.
Nilesh reminisced about watching Pearson compete in the 110m hurdles in 2012 and wanting to emulate her.
He credits his talent to his father who was also a good sprinter. Nilesh says that the award has boosted his confidence and his desire to take the sport to an elite level.
His future goals include representing Australia at the World University games, winning a national title and competing with open age athletes in state and national competitions. Nilesh also wishes to spend time in the US to further improve his technique and performance.