Peiris the Lankan hope in swimming

Mr. Ranjit Weerasena President (1980 - 1982)

Mr. Ranjit Weerasena who was the president of NOC Sri Lanka from 1980 to 1982 passed away on October 13, 2020. 

“Sri Lanka has a good history in athletics; not only in South Asia but in several Asian countries. In 1948 at the London Olympics Duncan White won the 400 metres hurdles. Sri Lanka kept on winning international medals after that. The journey ended after 52 years with Susanthika Jayasinghe winning the 200 metres Silver Medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.  But, since we are still groping in the dark, we are still to a major senior International medal”

“Taking a glorious trip backwards, I feel sad that there is no future in sports. Taking a look at the present situation I would like to ask what has happened to Sri Lanka athletics?” this question was posed by Ranjit Weerasena, the veteran athlete.

At the age of 78, Ranjit Weerasena, former President of the Olympic Committee and the AASL is a veteran to the word.  In 1958 he came to the forefront from St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya. He represented the Public Schools as the Discus Champion. Until 1970 he continued with the Discus Throw. During that time, a period of 12 years, he was National Champion in the Discus Throw. His Sri Lanka record existed for nine years, from 1964 to 1975. He also proved himself as a good administrator. He was the youngest Athletic Association President and National Olympic Committee President. He was Athletics President when he was 37 years. When he was 39 years he became the National Olympic Committee (NOC) President.

He functioned as Athletics President in 1978, 1979, 1980,1982 and 1996. He was NOC President in 1980 and 1981. He was also a Council Member of the Asian Athletics Association for nine years (1998 to 2007). Other than that he was President of the Ace Athletic Club, a premier athletic club for 25 years.

He was also Chairman of the Sri Lanka Athletics Association’s Selection Committee and was President of the Sri Lanka Veterans Athletics Association.

Ranjit Weerasena is known for having spent his money for athletics and not having taken funds from it!

He has been bedridden for over a decade now. Presently he is living in Colpetty, Galle Road, house number 368, as an invalid.

At the 2016 Presidential Sports Awards Ceremony he received a Lifetime Achievement Award of Excellence ‘Kreeda Bhushana’ from President Maithripala Sirisena at the Bandaranaike International Conference Hall.

 “It is important to value an individual on his performances. And his importance must be valued when the individual is living. Not when he is dead and gone. I have not won such an award before. I felt a great gratitude when I got this award from the President himself.

“There was an award for Derwin Perera as well. Derwin Perera has done a great deal for athletics as well. But he was unable to receive it as he was not amongst the living. If he was there that day, he would have been elated as myself. I feel our time was the best in Sri Lankan athletics. There was Duncan White, S.L.B. Rosa, W. Wimaladasa, Wimalasena Perera, Sunil Gunewardena and a large number of athletes existed. They won international medals with a lot of setbacks.

 “The next best period was 1991 after the Colombo South Asian Federation (SAF) Games. This period remained until 2000. During this period, from time to time, Sri Lanka won international medals. When one athlete gave up, two or three other athletes emerged. Sugath Tillekeratne, Damayanthi Dharsha, Sriyani Kulawansa, were there to win medals. SAF, Asian Athletics Championships, Asian Games. World Athletic Championships, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games. We were in the forefront.

 “After Susanthika’s Silver Medal in Sydney (2000), Sri Lanka has been unable to win a top level medal. I feel that there is no fault among the athletes. There are talented athletes coming forward almost every day. There is no proper planning for them. If our athletes are to shine, they should take part in events constantly. Specially the Thai Open, Singapore Open, Malaysian Open and Brunei Open. If a large contingent can take part in these events, our talents are bound to come forward.

 “Currently only athletic events, which are held every four years such as the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, are given priority. This is not so good!. Another reason why our athletes are not doing well is that our there is no unity among our coaches.

“Leading athletes in the provinces are languishing there and not coming to the town. The coaches are trying to win their own laurels.

 “I have not seen our athletes doing well after training abroad. Some go abroad and do not return. Some athletes train with top level foreign athletes and sustain injuries.

 “The best remedy is to get top consultant coaches to the island so that everybody can gain,” said Ranjit Weerasena.

In conclusion Ranjit said that he had a lot of friends in the past and they have now dwindled. But my wife, who is always with me, drives me around Colombo almost every day to keep the boredom away.

Ranjit’s wife is Asoka Samarawickrema, a national level netball and hockey player from Kegalle. She is a business woman.