A great athlete with proud plumes to sport | Daily News


A great athlete with proud plumes to sport

Names are several. But those who shone like stars in the firmament that come to mind are: Dion Walles, Clive Inman, H.I K. Fernando, David Heyn, Anton Perer, Russel Arnold, Rumesh Ratnayake, Vinodhan John, Roy Dias, Bernard Wijetunge, Rohan Paulpillai and Rohan Buultjens who struck twin hundreds in the ’Big match’ against St. Joseph’s College in cricket.

In rugby there was the mercurial Archibald Perera, Ago Paiva, Royden de Silva, Hadji Omar, Jeffrey de Jong, Angelo Wickremaratne and Darrel Wimalaratne.

The most outstanding

In athletics the most outstanding was RANJIT WEERASENA who we proudly feature as our ‘SPORTS LEGEND’ this Friday. WEERASENA was one of the nicest guys you could meet who had bonhomie written all over him. He was a regular visitor to the ‘Times of Ceylon’ and ‘Daily Mirror’ in the 1970s and ‘80s when I was the Sports Editor-in-Chief and we built up a good rapport.

Even when he reached the pinnacle of his athletic career, he did not lose his common touch, but was the same old unassuming guy I knew of the 70s and 80s and when I spoke about his brilliance on the field, he would listen and not blow his trumpet, like lesser mortals are won’t to do.

WEERASENA had the exterior of a tough guy. He had a physique ideally built for throwing the Put Shot and Discuss that sailed record breaking distances with ease. Every time he threw the Putt or the Discuss the majority of chances were that there was new record writ on it.

Many other ‘throwers’ of his era stood and watched amazed at his natural ability and tried to emulate him. But sadly came a cropper because WEERASENA was Monarch. However when those of his kind came to him seeking his help and tips in his chosen field, he would not bat an eyelid but go out of the way to show them how and correct any flaws in their ‘throwing’ abilities. He was revered by many of his kind in that era,that was glorious when it came to athletics.

He was unassuming and would recoil when his achievements were headlined as an athlete and later as coach and administrator,

But sadly this giant of an athlete who dwarfed those of his kind when he was king of the field, is now confined to bed having suffered a stroke. But he gets excited when he talks of old times and the good times he had according to his close and dear buddy, former Peterite cricket captain Bernard Wijetunghe who is now a captain in the travel trade.

Seneviratne said and in jest : ‘Every time an athletic meet was held at St.Peter’s College ground, every track event saw new records being set up. The officials and others were also nonplussed at those happenings. When Seneviratne was asked he said: ‘Don’t you know why? It’s because the athletes were running away from the stench that was emanating from the canal adjoining the ground’!

Back to WEERASENA. He served notice of his throwing prowess in 1958. He was Public Schools Champion in the throwing events and he reigned supreme for 12 years as National Discuss throw champion. His Sri Lanka record existed for nine years from 1964 to 1975.

After many victories in the schools scene WEERASENA represented Sri Lanka in several Asian Games. He also sported ace athletic club colours as a schoolboy in the 1956 Asian Games and won gold.

WEERASENA also had the good fortune of taking over the chairmanship of the National Olympic Committee from another great sprinter of yore the one and only Julian Grero who did yeoman services for athletics in the country. He headed the NOC in 1980 and 1981.

He was also a Council Member of the Asian Athletic Association for nine years from 1999 to 2007. Also he headed Ace Athletic Club a leading club for a record 25 years. He had such a long run because the membership in admiration and appreciation of the hard work put in by him were unanimous that he continues to steer the club.

WEERASENA had one of his proudest moments when at the 2016 Presidential Sports Awards Ceremony at the BMICH he received a lifetime achievement award of excellence termed ‘KREEDA BHUSHANA from President Maithripala Sirisena and he treasures that moment because he was awarded that title when he was living and not posthumously. He felt great when he received this rare honour.

The burly WEERASENA was also champion in many Indo-Ceylon Meets and also the Singapore Championships with success. He was also founder member of the Sri Lanka Veterans’ Athletic Association with Vijitha Wijesekera and Halaldeen in 1980. He has a Golden Pin to sport as life member of the Veteran Athletic Association.

What WEERASENA recalls with nostalgia was how when he was President of the AAA for five years, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was also a member of the AAA and later an efficient President of the Controlling body.

WEERASENA after his active days were over was determined to give back something to the sport that gave him so much and made him a household name. His determination and natural ability to do things for the sport was quickly spotted and he was voted the youngest Athletic Association President when he was just 37 years.

Two years later for his hard work he meteorite like rose to head the National Olympic Committee which was great honour to one so young. While others who were later voted to this high office clung to it like blood sucking leeches. WEERASENA after his tenure moved out with grace for others to take the top seat. This was admirable on his part and was much appreciated by the sporting fraternity.

RANJIT WEERASENA was truly a star that shone brightly in the athletic firmament in the country and Blue blooded,Gold and white Peterite sportsman and a proud son of Sri Lanka and a hero unparalleled.

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