SUMMA NAVARATNAM: He was not just Summa, he was Star Studded | Daily News

SUMMA NAVARATNAM: He was not just Summa, he was Star Studded

‘ASIA’S FASTEST HUMAN’, FASTEST MAN IN ASIA’. These were the adjectives used to describe one if not the best athlete and ruggerite produced by Royal College and Sri Lanka – the ever smiling magnificent SUMMA NAVARATNAM.

NAVARATNAM burnt not only the athletic track, but he also skimmed on the rugby field that held spectators spell bound watching in amazement the excellence of this once in a life time sportsman, the likes of whom has not been seen since and will ever be seen.

He was a sportsman with rare all round abilities. He was athlete, ruggerite, boxer and later rugby coach par excellence.

It was in the 1940s and 1950s that NAVARATNAM put on show on the athletic track and the rugby field his amazing runs that had opposing athletes always running a far second and leaving rugby defenders clutching thin air as he breezed through to score match winning tries.

Athletic career

The writer wishes to take readers first through NAVARATNAM’S athletic career which resembled an Usain Bolt in action. He pet event was the 100 metres which is not the thing, but the only thing in the many events in athletics. During his reign Sri Lanka and Asian records came naturally to him.

When he came under starter’s orders he was like a leopard all coiled up ready to chase its prey. He had the god given ability to take off with the sound of the starter’s gun and he was like grease lightning breasting the tape first with record timings.

Many athletes shunned having to race with NAVARATNAM, because they knew they had no chance whatsoever of challenging the king of the track. He was supremely fit, always exuding confidence believing that no one could challenge his reign.

International class

He showed that he was an athlete who had international class writ all over him when in 1953 he broke the existing 100 metre record at the India States Olympic Meet in Madras running neck to neck with Lavy Pinto the best Indian sprinter and clocking an amazing time of 10.4 seconds. The crowd watched in amazement this sterling effort by the Sri Lankan and gave him a rousing ovation.

That dream timing of 10.4 secs broke the Indian and Asian records and came close to the 1948 London Olympic record of 10.3 secs and the Helsinki Olympic record of 10.4 ses. In 1952. He was a champion in the 200 and 400 metre events.

NAVARATNAM first showcased his talents as a nine-year old at the training college – known as Royal Primary School when he won the ‘lime and spoon’race over a distance of 25 metres which was stepping stone to greater honours as his career began to unwind.

Youngest to be honoured

At the tender age of 15 Royal colours came his way in athletics in 1940 and was the youngest Royalist to be thus honoured which still stands as a record. The events he loved that jetted him to glory were the 100,200 and 400 metres.

Competing from 1940 NAVARATNAM became the junior track champion and tucking the under 14, under 16 and Best Performance Cup at the then famous Public Schools Meet and schools AAA in 1943.

NAVARATNAM also won for his school the Tarbat and Jefferson Cups. The 200 and 400 he dominated and won at the Public Schools Meet in 1943 with timings that were unimaginable. He also anchored the Royal 4 x 110 metre relay team.

Amazing talent

His amazing talent on the track won for him the captaincy of the Royal athletic team in 1942 and 1943. His star seemed to shining bright and national honour were not long in coming and running for Ceylon in the 4x100 relay he had in his team renowned athletes such as Duncan White, Basil Henricus and R.E.Kitto. Names that were feared and admired in that period. He then underlined that he is the best and the fastest athlete in the country by pocketing the 100 yards sprint at the nationals. The Wilton Bartleet Trophy was his all adjudged the best individual efforts at the nationals.

NAVARATNAM represented the country at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Auckland, Kiwiland running in the 4x100 relay and 100 yards in 1951. He was a member of the then famous Ace Athletic Club and taking to the track there was no challenging his status as the fastest man in the country winning the 100m event at the National Championships.

Burnt the track

NAVARATNAM then burnt the track running the 100 metres and registering a fantastic time of 10.4 secs in a meeting of the Madras Provincial Olympic Association. The meet was held on a grass track and this timing was a record on a grass track never before achieved.

While the legendary Duncan White won a Silver at the 1948 Olympic Games finishing second in the 400 metres hurdles, the country would have for certain pocketed another medal, but unaccountably NAVARATNAM was overlooked by the selectors which was a bad miss.

But it is said that you can’t keep a good man down and NAVARATNAM formed the 1950 Commonwealth and Empire Games team to Auckland, New Zealand teaming up with Duncan White, Oscar Wijesinghe and John de Saram in the 100 metre relay.

Athlete of brilliance

While still an athlete of brilliance he also played rugger for Royal and later CR and FC and Sri Lanka. His flashy runs on the wings saw him being tagged the fastest winger’

There are many more dazzling athletic efforts of NAVARATNAM, but lack of space stalls the writer from mentioning them. But it is all there in the record books for posterity.

From the track we move on to describe his exploits on the rugby field.

NAVARATNAM recalls with glee the 1941 Royal team captained by Minoo Jilla that beat Trinity for the first time by 11 points to 3 at Reid Avenue. In 1943 he was in the team that beat Trinity in two matches for the first time 6-0 in Colombo.

Best moment

Then he enjoyed his best moment in the second leg when deputizing for Larry Foenando who was injured he helped Royal triumph 5-3 in which game he ran like a gazelle for over 60 metres to plant a try under the posts.

NAVARATNAM’S most memorable moment was when he was chosen to play for Sri Lanka against the touring British Lions in 1950. Although the British Lions ran riot to score 44 points to Sri Lanka’s 6, it is said that the British Lions manager paid NAVARATNAM a glowing tribute saying that they would have loved to have him in their team as a winger.

In 1954 he captained the CR and FC and helped them to pocket the Clifford Cup. Names that need mentioning in that cup winning team were Dr. Trevor Anghie, Norman Gunawardena, A.B. Van Twest, S. Bambaradeniya, Ago Paiva,Venfoo Pakstun, Devaka Rodrigo, Geoff Weinman, Ashey Cader and H.Numan. He also headed the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union in 1974.

Outstanding athletes

NAVARATNAM as athletic coach produced some outstanding athletes in Darrell Lieverz,(Royal), Lakshman de Alwis (SACK), Nirmala Dissanayake,Lorraine Ratnam and Jilska Flamer-Caldera.

NAVARATNAM was also a top boxer at Royal fighting in the Stubbs Shield in 1939. He fought beautifully in the preliminary rounds in the Bantam weight and lost a close fight in the final. He was awarded Royal boxing colours for this courageous display.

NAVARATNAM also coached CR and FC, Police, his old school Royal and later Isipatana. He coached for more than 50 years which is also a record and credit in his illustrious unsurpassable career.

God’s blessings to you

SUMMA NAVARATNAM will be 94 on May 21 and we wish this hero and legend, one if not the best all round sportsman produced by Royal College and Sri Lanka all the best and many more years of living with god’s blessings.

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