A VICTOR always in Long Jump events | Daily News


A VICTOR always in Long Jump events


It is not wrong to say that he had blue blood in his athletic veins because he hailed from that Blue and White coloured school from Darley Road, St. Joseph’s College. He is none other than the famous Sri Lankan Long Jump champion who had no peers during his reign P.DON VICTOR.

VICTOR was a name famous when it came to Long Jumping and at every meet be it the famous Public Schools Athletic Meets, Mercantile Meets or International events, he was always a feared opponent and maintained that reputation during his chequered career.

Deserved award

Although belated VICTOR was deservedly awarded the ‘KREEDA BHUSHANA’ award at the glittering Presidential Sports Awards Ceremony held at the BMIC with the Chief Guest being President Maithripala Sirisena.

Also in attendance was the Minister of Sport Harin Fernando and several other distinguished personalities. When VICTOR'S name was announced there was resounding applause because he richly deserved it.

Those who had known and been his Long Jump opponents during his reign speak very highly of him, because more the honours bestowed on him, he did not lose his simplicity and humility that was inculcated in him by his school SJC.

Father built L J pit

It is said that his father P.Don Henry was keen on athletics and determined to see his son one day become an athlete of repute. It was his father who initially built a Long Jump pit in the back garden where VICTOR got a feel of what Long Jumping was.

In school he took to athletics like a duck to water. He had natural talent in him and his first attempt was in the junior relays.

At that time St. Joseph’s College and the country had one, if not the best coach the sport of athletics has seen and will ever see in Anthony Abeysinghe and VICTOR had the god given opportunity of being coached by him.

While writing on athletics at SJC it will be an injustice if the writer does not make mention of the champion athletes and championship winning teams Abeysinghe produced year in and year out.

Outstanding athletes

He made SJC dominate the Public Schools Meet every year with teams that won the Sir John Tarbart Trophy beating all other participating schools. Names of outstanding athletes he produced who come to mind are Nagalingam Ethiriweerasingham, Adolph Silva, W.T. Winslow, Tissa de Zoysa and Priya Perera.

A little anecdote - when I was ‘Sports Editor-in-Chief’ of the ‘Times of Ceylon’, ‘Daily Mirror’ and ‘Sunday Times’, Abeysinghe walked in to the Editorial and took me by surprise when he gifted me with a box. Those were the days when I was doing a bit of elbow bending and I thought it was a bottle of hard stuff in it.

Before leaving he thanked me profusely for the wonderful publicity given to him and his achievements. But when I took the box home and opened it, I was stuck for words because it was a Statue of our Lady.

To this day I have that statue and venerate it every day by saying a prayer for Abeysinghe who is no more.

VICTOR’S achievements

Having said that, I move on to describe the achievements of DON VICTOR. He started his illustrious athletic career as a 4 x 100 junior relay runner at SJC. But coach Abeysinghe who he says was his mentor, guide and philosopher seeing him advised him to take to field events and mentioned Long Jump and thus began his reign. He took to Long Jumping in 1949 and it was not long before he established the Ceylon Long Jump record. He set up a junior college record when as a 15 year old schoolboy he cleared 17 feet 7 inches. Later in the Public Schools Meet he had to his credit the junior record in the Long Jump clearing 20 feet 6 inches. It was also a group record. But one of the moments he remembers and treasures most is the record he established at the Public Schools Meet in 1956 where he broke a record which was to the credit of E.A.P.Smarasinghe also a Josephian which stood for 15 years. To establish that record he cleared a distance of 21 feet 6 ¾ inches.

Predicted records

Those who watched the manner in which VICTOR was progressing predicted that records in Long Jump was his for the asking. In 1956 he enjoyed his greatest jump when he effortlessly cleared 23 feet 3 inches to establish his first Ceylon record.

It was not long when he was bestowed with national colours. It came in 1956 when he was chosen for a Malaysian meet held in Penang. But what he enjoyed most was being selected to sport national colours in 1958 at the Third Asian Games in Tokyo where he cleared 22 feet 8 inches to be placed 6thamong Asian jumpers which was creditable.

The same year he was picked for the Commonwealth Games in Wales. He practiced hard and was clearing 24 feet. But bad luck struck when while training he slipped off the board and injured his ankle and suffering pain he could only clear 20 feet which was great disappointment. He also participated in the Malaysian Games in 1959.

Illustrious men

VICTOR says that during his time illustrious men with top credentials who led the Amateur Athletic Association and he makes special mention of C.T Vangeyzel, Julian Grero, Arthur Chandrasena, Upali Gooneratne, Dr.H.S.R Gunewardene and David Thambyah.

Incidentally Upali Gooneratne was a champion 100 metre man and the writer had the good fortune of being invited with Gooneratne by the West German Government as guests of 1972 Munich Olympics which was a terrifying experience. That was because for the first time a senseless terror group termed ‘Black September’ stormed the athletic village at night, shot and killed some innocent Israeli athletes that stunned the world. Upali and I were shivering in our pants when we heard the shocking news.

In the administration

After quitting the track and field, VICTOR gave back to the sport that gave him a name and international recognition by joining the administration and serving and doing his best for the sport as Secretary of the Amateur Athletic Association for six years.

During his tenure he helped the AAA to establish a much needed headquarters. He later became the Vice President of the Asian Amateur Athletic Association from 1993 to 1995 which was a rare honour for Sri Lanka.

But some of the office bearers who followed handed him the unkindest cut of all when they ganged up to deprive him as Vice President of AAA and AAAA. His removal did not go down well with AAAA Secretary Maurice Nicholas who in a note to him regretted his removal.

A Plaque in appreciation

Asian Athletic Association President Mohammed Hasan presented VICTOR a plaque in appreciation of his dedicated service for athletics in Asia. He was a Council Member of AAAA from 1991 to 1995.

His Alma Mater SJC presented him the Award of Excellence in 2002. In the annals of Sri Lankan athletics the unassuming VICTOR was the only athlete to hold Group Junior and Senior Public and Senior Public Schools Sri Lanka records and Mercantile Long Jump records.

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