Before Punsara Dissanayake joined Special Olympics Serendib, she lived like a recluse.
The 19-year-old, who has autism, was reluctant to attend school as she feared being bullied. She was timid, often bad-tempered and refused to even speak to her two younger sisters.
Things changed after she joined Special Olympics in 2014.
She made friends. She was keen to attend swimming lessons and bocce training. She showed such flair that she became the leader of the bocce team, and has since helped train other athletes with intellectual disabilities in the sport.
Her family has been attending her training sessions and cheering her on at every competition she takes part in. Their unwavering support has brought them closer, with her parents now also involved in Special Olympics.
Punsara has found the courage to pursue her other talents - singing and writing. She has written two books so far, and her family is raising funds to get them published.
She says, “I want to develop my leadership skills and work with other athletes."