Top Story,Cover Story,Tina Edward Gunawardhana l by Tina Edward Gunawardhana l 23 Jan 2020     - 129

POWOMANER


Photo by Gord Weber

 

 

Engineer and sportswoman kumi jinadasa is the epitome of a modern day power woman. Striving forward to reach for the stars this Mission manager at the Canadian Space Agency charts her journey to the top

 

 

Words: Tina Edward Gunawardhana
A Canadian by birth but a Sri Lankan at heart, vivacious Kumi Jinadasa’s aspirations stretch to outer space. Quite literally, this amazing power woman is a mission manager for various space programmes at the Canadian Space Agency, where she began her career as a robotics instructor. Armed with a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the prestigious McGill university, Kumi even applied to go to Space. Fostering an interest in science, Kumi’s dreams to work in engineering came true and her career progression has seen her work at one of Canada’s most high profile engineering establishments Pratt and Whitney before joining the Canadian Space Agency.


 Her dynamism extends to the field of sport where Kumi has won numerous awards for body building. A sports buff, Kumi always had an affinity towards sports but when an injury struck she turned body building. Her highly toned and sculpted body sling with her competitive spirit has earned the respect of her peers in the field. Barriers do not exist for Kumi who is a firm believer that one must reach for the stars and in  her case she is almost halfway there.

 

Photo by Pascale Ratthe

 

In my career, I would say that sports allows me time to alleviate any mental stress and fatigue and is a form of mindfulness when connecting mind to muscle!

 


Where were you born? 
Montreal, Québec, Canada.


What swayed you to pursue a career in engineering?
At a young age, I became fascinated by the stars, where they are and understanding if there are limits to our Universe. Although, as a child I didn’t quite understand that these concepts were all related to engineering, my interests guided me throughout my schooling. 


Why specifically robotics?
Robotics is Canada’s main contribution to the International Space Station. 


How difficult was it to get into the Canadian Space Agency? 
It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure! The interview process consisted of multiple tests and interviews. The entire process took one year.

Photo by Zack Taylor


What does your job there entail?
I currently work as a Mission Manager coordinating projects on the International Space Station (ISS). My job combines project management and  an operations engineering skill set.


What is it like to interact with the other astronauts?
It’s incredible to work with such dedicated, motivated people. They inspire me every day.


Would you consider attempting a journey into space?
I have tried! I applied to the Canadian Astronaut Recruitment Campaign in 2016.

 

Photo by Ali Sohrab

 

What role did sports play in your career?
It kept me from going crazy throughout my engineering degree with all the exams and studying!! Now, it just feels like a part of me. 
I feel ‘off’ when I don’t train. In my career, 
I would say that it allows me time to alleviate any mental stress and fatigue and is a form of mindfulness when connecting mind to muscle!


What made you switch to body building?
With such a busy schedule, I needed a sport that could work around my life. I stopped training completely for almost a year before. I was miserable and didn’t like what I had become physically, which caused me a lot of personal stress and feeling not myself. That’s when my husband suggested bodybuilding. He used to compete many years ago and knew it would be something I would fall in love with. He wasn’t wrong!

Photo by Pascale Ratthe


What is its appeal?
It encompasses both strength and glamour. The physical beauty of the sport all developed from hours of being a sweaty mess! 


How long have you been training for?
Bodybuilding weight lifting specifically – 2 years.


What advice would you give to someone who might feel intimated to lift weights?
Just go for it!!! Don’t feel intimidated, we all were beginners at one point. It’s honestly the best thing you can do for yourself, I promise you.
At the Ottawa Classic Natural Regional competition, you were awarded 1st place in both the Open and Overall Bikini Champion.


How does the bikini division differ from other divisions of the competition?
At regional and national shows we are divided by height so there are usually at least 4 classes which are called Open, then the winners of each Open class get to compete for the overall title. 


Can you please describe your training regimen?
During  off-season, I’m weight training with my coach Aaron Gachuz twice a week and complete 3 weight lifting sessions on my own. I have 2 sessions of cardio per week of 30mins. In preparation for a competition, the weight lifting sessions will remain but I will add cardio 5-7x per week and increase to up to 60mins sessions.


And what is your diet like?
On a regular basis I’m eating chicken, rice, veggies, sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, fish, eggs, oatmeal and COFFEE! I supplement with Quattro Protein powder and Glutamine every single day. I also use the muscle building products from Magnum like the big C creatine, Hard Muscle Builder, and natural fat burners (Heat, Carne Diem, and After Burner). I only consume high quality pharmaceutical grade Magnum products. They are the best!


What advice would you give to a person wanting to take their gym routine to the next level?
For 2 seasons I competed with only my own knowledge of how to build myself in the gym. Now having teamed up with coach Aaron Gachuz, my workouts are at the next level! I’ve never trained more intensely, more focused or more effectively in my entire life.


As an active competitor, how is traditional expectations of women’s strength and muscle challenged by participating in these competitions? 
I love traditions but am anything but traditional! If you love something you just continue doing it regardless of what people think.

 

I currently work as a Mission Manager coordinating projects on the International Space Station (ISS). My job combines project management and  an operations engineering skill set.

 


There is a school of thought that the female bodybuilder is a gender outlaw. What are your thoughts on that?
There are some countries that go as far as to forbid women from the sport entirely. Nothing good has ever come from oppressing ANYONE.


How disciplined do you need to be in this field?
100% all day every day.


We don’t see many Sri Lankans participating in bodybuilding competitions. Why do you think this might be?
When visiting Sri Lanka, I’ve noticed that the women seem to be shy, quiet and delicate. In the bodybuilding industry you see a lot of women who are outgoing, extraverted and hardcore. I luckily have found myself somewhere in the middle. I think that some women might find it difficult to find that middle ground, but I have! Which means so can anyone else!


If the opportunity arises, would you consider competing as a Sri Lankan at these competitions?
1000000%!!! I can’t wait for the day! 

 

Photo by Pascale Ratthe


What sort of a ‘high’ do you experience before you go on stage? 
I’m just ready to kill it! There’s no better feeling than getting to show case all the hours and hard work and dieting (a process that can be ugly at times) in the most stunning, glamorous, sensual way. 

Photo by Pascale Ratthe


What are your thoughts after you step off the stage?
It feels like every fiber of my body and soul is filling with confidence, radiance, hardcore strength and femininity. I feel so much gratitude to be able to be a part of this sport.


How supportive has your family been in your endeavors?
Growing up my parents supported me with absolutely everything from joining the military, education, modelling, piano EVERYTHING. I attribute this as a key reason to my success. Now with my own family, I receive the same support. My husband is the key factor to balancing my career, family and bodybuilding. He literally takes care of the kids, driving them, baths, cooking, cleaning, homework, whatever it takes. I reciprocate of course! We take turns carrying the load but I admit he carries more than me (literally too, he’s a strong man!).


What is the most common misconception people have of you?
People often have the impression that since I’ve accomplished so many diverse things and am happy, I don’t struggle. That’s so far from the truth!! I make mistakes, cry, breakdown, feel overwhelmed, and even feel like giving up. But with the help of some amazing friends I get through it. My life is far from perfect and my day is filled with stress, but when I lean on these people it’s a lot easier to find the good in things.


What is your single most motivating factor?
My kids. I have a 4 year old who understand macros (carbs, fats, protein) more than most adults. He has inherited my passion for health and wellness. My 13 year old who came to the gym with me late on a Friday night when I didn’t want to go finish my cardio. I was 3 weeks from a show and he just said “Mama you have to because that’s what you would tell me”. I’m tearing up just talking about it! 


What is the legacy you wish to leave behind?
That life if multi-faceted. You don’t need to fall into the stereotype that society has paved. You can be an army infantry qualified, mother, wife, fashion model, engineer, astronaut robotic instructing piano playing scuba diver who flies airplanes, and competes as a National level bodybuilder. THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR YOU. Bring your best. Be you. And NEVER give up on yourself!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is the Features Editor of Hi!! Magazine. She writes on a variety of topics which include travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also a journalist for the Daily Mirror Life. An intrepid traveller, Tina likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno or email her at tinajourno@gmail.com

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