LEE(thal) @ 16 held 20 records! | Daily News

LEE(thal) @ 16 held 20 records!


In the good old days when swimming in the country was at its best we had swimmers who could have held their own against any opposition.

Names of the famous Marks brothers, Speldwindes, Ahamadeens, Arndts, Bollings, Pathmadevas, Weerakoddys, Dulapandans, R.M.Dhammikas, Jayalath Jayakoddys, Timothy Speldewindes, to name a few that come to mind. That was the time when the two mile sea swim was a craze and eagerly awaited.

Not many schools had swimming pools. But schools that produced champion swimmers came from St. Joseph’s College, S.Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia and from the South top swimmers emerged from Dharmasoka College. Noted clubs were Kinross, Fishtails, Colombo Swimming Club, Otters and Rainbow.

Hugged the headlines

In more recent times swimmers who hugged the headlines were Mathew Abeysinghe, Julian Bolling, Dipika Chanmugam, Kimiko and Mayumi Raheem, Maneka de Silva, Condrad Francis, Renuka Ranasinghe, Upeka Samarawickrema and Upeksha Silva come to mind.

One of the most outstanding swimmers to come out of Sri Lankan waters was SEAN LEE a former Josephian and Asian International School swimming sensation. Believe it or not and it was mind boggling to note that at just 16 years of age, LEE was the proud holder of 20 national records both at local and international meets.


LEE(THAL) as he was popularly called, SEAN was a sensation not only in the pool but also but also in the sea as well. He was a natural when it came to swimming and showcased his talents from a very early age. In addition to his excellent skills in the water, he was a lover of other sports as well, but it was swimming that caught his fancy and every time he plunged into the pool, a record was his for the asking. Although taking to the pool or sea like a fish to water, he did not neglect the all important education.

At the 54th two mile sea swim in 1991 LEE figured as the youngest swimmer in the event and although not winning, he was awarded a trophy for being the youngest to participate.

Swimming career

LEE began his swimming career that was to take him to the pinnacle at the tender age of eight. He served notice of what to expect from him when swimming in the 50 metres Free Style he signaled his first record with a timing of 36.32 seconds which still stands as a record.

LEE was fortunate to be shown how by some of the top coaches which included Shirley Abeysinghe, Ranil Gunasena and Julian Bolling. He started his career doing the short distance, but subsequently preferred the long distance that brought him glory. He was the beacon in the Josephian swimming firmament and steered his school to carry away several championship trophies and the authorities noticing his excellence appointed him captain of the schools swim team in 1997.

National honours

National honours came his way in 1992 when he was picked to swim in the 6th Asia Pacific Age Group Swimming Championships in Bejing, China. Although not being on the winning podium, expert swimmers who watched him closely predicted a bright future for the young man.

Detailed here are some of his outstanding achievements, national and international. He set up records in the 50 metres Free Style in 1990, 400 metre Individual Medley in 1995,400 metres Free Style in 1996, 200 metres Free Style in 1996, 1,500 metres Free Style in 1996 in Chinese Taipei (improved on the under 19 record of 18.10.78 secs set in 1982 by Julian Bolling. LEE’s timing was 17.55.57 secs.

Not satisfied LEE also broke the 400 metre Free Style and 400 metre Individual Medley records. His timing in 400 metre Free Style was 4.33.57 secs and 400 metre Individual Medley was 5.29.10 secs.

Records in the water

Records in the water seem to come naturally to him. He established records at the Sri Lanka Schools Junior and Senior National Swimming Championships as well as at Age Group swimming meets, Royal College Aquatic Gala and National Swimming Championships. LEE captained the Sri Lanka men’s team to the to the South Asian Federation Games in 1995 in India. He also led the men’s team at the Invitation Age Group Swimming Meet in Taiwan in 1997.

LEE also swam in the 6th Asia Pacific Age Group Swimming Championships in China in 1992 and the 8th Games in India in 1994, SAF Games in India in 1995, 9th APAGSC in Colombo, Invitation Age Group in Chinese Taipei in 1996,10th APAGSC in South Korea in 1996.

Bright student

LEE was also a bright student and while concentrating on swimming he did not neglect his studies and had to miss swimming in the 1st World Gymnasiade in Shanghai, China in 1998 and the 13th Asia Pacific Age Group Meet in 1999 owing to examinations.

LEE would have been disappointed when after being picked by NASSU and having obtained the approval of NOC to go on a IOC swimming scholarship to Australia in 1998 along with two other swimmers Eranga Fernando of STCML and Anuradha Perera of Trinity College, the Sports Ministry inexplicably stopped it and instead flew down a foreign coach.

LEE’S other outstanding achievements at SJC was being picked as the Best Allrounder ( academic and sports) primry school in 1993. He was the SJC swimming captain in 1996,’97 and ’98.

Switched schools

From SJC he switched to the Asian International School and helped them win the overall championship title in the Inter-International Swimming Championship in 1999.

Still in his prime as a champion swimmer he left to USA for further studies and Sri Lanka lost one of their best in swimming sport.

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