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Old 31-05-21, 12:15 AM
sriyanj sriyanj is online now
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Default Reminiscences of my career in sports-Karu Amerasinghe.

Reminiscences of my career in sports

From my young days, I loved to participate in sports. When I joined STC Gurutalawa as a being a boarder I had the opportunity of playing all the games I liked, like many of my friends. The games I played were, Basketball, Soccer, Squash, Badminton, Hockey, Swimming and Athletics, I also engaged in horse riding which I enjoyed very much.
At Gurutalawa we had to be in the hall for prep at 6.30 pm and Bell Simon, a popular figure, used to start ringing the bell at 6.25 pm and we had to be at prep before Bell Simon stopped ringing the bell, If not we were punished. So we had only 5 minutes to have a bath get ready and go for prep. The good fellow Bell Simon - whenever he saw us running towards the hall he never stopped ringing the bell until we reached the Prep Hall
Of the sports I played, I liked Basketball the best. Whenever I had some free time I used to be on the court with some of my friends practicing to improve our skills. Some of the friends I remember are, Mahendra Liyanage( Buckka), G.H.Karunaratne, the late B.D.D.Wijewardena, Mario Fernando, Nath Kannangara, Zacky Dasterkeer, K.L.D.Perera, U.K.D. Jinapriya and Timothy Bridge - who went on to become Head Prefect of the College.
I believe in the adage "practice makes perfect". Sheer practice not only made me fit but I improved my skills-shooting, dribbling, sidestepping, faking, jumping, etc., and was made the captain of the senior team. Dr. R.L. Hayman who was the Headmaster and a sports enthusiast used to organize a trip to S. Michael's College Batticaloa every year to play against them. This was the most enjoyable event in our sports calendar. Our team was managed by Mr.Chinniah and coached by Mr.Thiagarajah. We did very well against all the teams we played against.
We also looked forward to our annual trip to Jaffna to play against S. John's and S. Patrick's. Ethnic harmony was at its best during our days. We had no difference and did everything as one big family. These trips should be organized by the school heads once again to set an example to the rest of the country.
In 1964 I was awarded College Colours for Basketball. Other than Basketball I represented STC Gurutalawa in Soccer and was awarded School Colours. I also represented the school in Athletics and won College Colors for Rifle Shooting which was another activity I enjoyed very much.

There is one incident that has not left my memory since leaving Gurutalawa. We, under Dr. Hayman had a lot of outdoor activities such as scouting, hiking, cross country, etc. I believe the year was 1964 ? when we had a cross country race in which I also took part with a lot of others. After completing about 90% of the race I saw my friend Sarath Nanayakkara who was familiar with the terrain and a good runner - who was leading the race - fallen on the ground. I immediately stopped and asked him what the matter was. He said he had a cramp, so I massaged his leg, gave him some water to drink, and helped him to recover which took about 10 minutes, and continued the race. He beat me to second place!if I had left him on the ground I would have won the race.. Looking back on my sports career these little incidents are the ones that are etched in my memory more than winning medals.
I wish to recall another incident which has not left my memory since leaving Gurutalawa. During the Inter House Sport Meet I was running the last lap for Read House. We were all gathered near the finish line and cheering the runners and all of a sudden a boy jumping up and down with spikes landed on my foot causing a bad injury to the side of my foot. Although the injury was bad I was determined to run the last lap but the master in charge and my friends after inspecting the injury persuaded me not to run and immediately took me to Doctor Anghie at Welimada who put 4 or 5 stiches. The scars are still visible on my foot.
Playing lots of sports we were always hungry and the Guru tuck-shop had good things to eat like Lavaria - one of my favorites, string hoppers - which were only Rs. 2/- each at that time. The Rs. 10/= I got as pocket money was sufficient for me to last one month. Friday was a vegetarian day in the school and we thought Friday should never have been in the calendar.
My friend Zacky Dasterkeer and a few of us always wanted some meat with our food, so what we did was to go to the farm and buy a chicken. Zacky being a Muslim wouldn't eat the chicken unless the chicken was slaughtered whilst saying a prayer. As we had no other Muslim Zacky himself took on the task of slaughtering the chicken. He used to cut the neck of the chicken and throw it a few feet away from us and once the chicken was dead we took it to our Warden's driver Piyasena's house to get it cooked. Driver's wife was a good cook and other than the chicken curry she used to make a good pol sambol and a dhal curry which we relished very much with bread or string hoppers. This was a routine every Friday.
After completing our GCE Ordinary Level exam I and many of my friends joined STC Mt. Lavinia. Even in Mt. Lavinia being a boarder I had the opportunity of playing all the games I liked but Basketball took precedence. I captained the Basketball team in 1966 and we came to the finals of the All-Island Tournament in 1967 where I was selected as the All-Island BEST SHOOTER. Whilst being at school I was selected as an ALL STAR in Basketball and represented the country from 1971- 1975.
The incident I am going to narrate now is a bit hilarious but looking back it was a matter of life and death. Every Sunday - after breakfast - we used to play Basketball till noon. After playing for about two hours we were all exhausted but we didn?t have money to go to the tuck-shop and buy a drink. My pocket money was only Rs. 10/=. I was the only person in our group who could climb a coconut tree and there were plenty of them around the BB Court. At Gurutalawa we were taught how to climb and cut trees.
S.Thomas Gurutalawa was the 1st outbound school in Sri Lanka and Rev Fr.Goodchild was in charge of Scouting. He was a mentor, a guiding light and an inspiration to all of us. We enjoyed our cross country hikes to Ohiya and many other places.
Every Saturday/Sunday I would climb a coconut tree or two and pluck all the young coconuts (i.e. Kurumba) which were relished by all my friends. We didn't know what to do with the mature coconuts I plucked until BDD Wijewardena came up with a bright idea! He suggested that Mrs. Silva who was running a boarding house near the college might buy the coconuts if we offered them to her at half the price. We, with trepidation approached her and she readily agreed to buy them. As a result, every week, we made sufficient money to have a Thosai feed at Saraswathi Lodge.
One day when I was on top of the tree our Warden - Mr. Selvaratnam came out of his bungalow to go for a walk. All my friends, when they saw the Warden, pretended to be looking for a lost ball and quietly slipped away. The warden who takes about 4 minutes to take 2 steps was walking up and down the road leading to the Tennis Courts. I had no way of getting down without being spotted by the Warden and after about 5 minutes of holding on to the tree my knees started knocking and I thought I was going to fall down and die which made me start praying - Buddhan Saranan Gachchami--------! I couldn't hold on to the tree any longer with my legs shaking , so what I did was to climb right to the top of the tree and wait there maybe for about half an hour until the Warden went back to his bungalow. I was quite comfortable at the top of the tree but was extremely inconvenienced as a result of the Warden taking so long to finish his walk
Once the Warden went back I came down the tree with bruises all over my chest and legs because I had dropped the rope (which is called the Wallalla in Sinhala) which I used to climb the tree. I didn’t go to the sickroom to get treatment as my friends and I thought the sickroom Matron may ask how I got these unusual injuries. What an episode it was!

Last edited by sriyanj; 31-05-21 at 12:35 AM.
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Old 31-05-21, 12:20 AM
sriyanj sriyanj is online now
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At Mt.Lavinia apart from Basketball, I represented the school in Rugby and Athletics. At the end of the Rugby season, I was selected to represent the outstation schools along with my friends Hasitha Kannangara and Azam Hameed.
I represented Copleston House in Water Polo, Hockey, Basketball, Athletics, and Cricket. We always had a healthy rivalry against Miller Chapman House in all sports. When I was in school, on some days after a game of BB, I used to run to Galle Face and back. That was the fitness level I maintained. I believe that anyone who wants to do well in any sport has to be 100 percent fit. I can remember taking part in a road race from Mt. Lavinia to Galle Face along with S.L.B Rosa, Wimaladasa Perera etc. and securing the tenth place. The first ten to finish were awarded Certificates. Another incident I remember is the 4 x 400 meters relay in the Inter-House Sports Meet. S.K.Jayasinghe of Stone House, who unfortunately passed away some time ago, was the first schoolboy to run the 800 meters under 2 minutes and was running the last lap of the relay and I was the last lapper for my House. Our team was made up of K.L.D.Perera, Ramanayake, myself and another boy whose name I cannot recall.Fortunately, I got a handsome lead when I was handed the baton for the last lap and I thought if don't run the race of my life S.K will beat me hands down. In fact, with everyone cheering me I ran the race of my life with S.K breathing down on my neck and held on to win the race by a whisker. S.K. died a long time ago but I still remember his smooth style of running. May his soul RIP! Good old memories!
At the end of the school Rugby season Mr. Percy Perera our coach, almost physically dragged me to CR FC and made me a member.Others who joinedCR &FC with me were Hashita Kannangara,Usama Suby and Azam Hameed. I started with the C team and graduated to the B team but unfortunately, the security of the country took precedence, and in the middle of the rugby season, I was mobilized as an Army Volunteer, which put an end to my Rugby career.
At CR & FC I captained the Basketball team and represented the club in Hockey as well. I have happy memories of the times I spent with the club and meeting some wonderful people such as Reggie Batholameusz, Eric Roles, Mohan Sahayam & his wife Penny, Tony Sylva, Tony Sirimanne, Haji Omar, Ronnie Shockman, Didacus De Almeda, Shiraz Fernando and Malsiri Perera to name a few.
At the Bank of Ceylon where I was employed, I had the privilege of Captaining five Sports, namely -Basketball, Rugby, Hockey, Athletics, and the mixed Netball teams. I also represented BOC in Soccer. We had a very good Basketball team at the Bank and did very well against all the other teams. One match I will never forget was the match we played against Old Bens in the Depot Police Tournament. We had no Ceylon Caps in our team - I played for Sri Lanka subsequent to this tournament - but the Old Bens team comprised of 5 Ceylon Caps - Cosmos Perera, Percy Perera, Noel Perera, Malsiri Perera and Milroy Perera. It was a ding dong battle till the end and with about 15 seconds to go I was awarded 2 free throws when the scores were level. My hands were shaking when I took the first throw which I missed but somehow managed to sink in the second throw and won the match. Bank of Ceylon team comprised of Shanthikaran, Pingamage, Wasantha Abeysinghe, Issadeen, Tharin Peiris, Sivakumar, Olagasekeram, Benjamin, Pakianathan, and Halaldeen.
Another tournament that comes to my mind is the Nachchimuttu Gaunder Tournament held in Coimbatore - India in the early 1970s. Those days there was a ferry sailing from Point Pedro to Rameshwaram every other day. We took the Ferry to Rameshvaram and from Rameshwaram we boarded the train to Coimbatore. Poverty in south India was so high at that time! When we ate our bananas in the train and threw the skins the people fought for the skins.
The tournament was fiercely contested with many a strong team taking part. We did quite well to reach the quarter finals but lost to the strong Gymkhana Club by a small margin. After the tournament our team mate Shanthikaran was nick named GAUNDER and we still call him by that name.
During this time India had a be Indian buy Indian policy and we were able to sell all the spices, soap, coconut oil, etc. that we took along with us - including my broken pair of Bata slippers - for a good price and make some pocket money. Some of us did a day trip to Kerala - beautiful place in India.
I have no doubt that Mr. Halaldeen, a double international - Athletics and Basketball player - was one of the best sportsmen produced by BOC. In 1958 he won the Gold Medal for High Jump in a triangular tournament held in Bangalore. Unfortunately he did not continue his Athletics skills while in the Bank. If he did- who knows what heights he would have reached!Others who made a name for themselves in sports and brought honor to BOC during my era were; Gordon Cooray Cricket and Hockey, Tony Adahan Hockey, Shanthikaran Basketball, Hockey, and Cricket, Wasantha Abeysinghe Basketball, Football, and Rugby, Palitha Wijesinghe Athletics, Sachithanandan Athletics, Chandra Dias Football, Issadeen Basketball and Football, Baba Fonseka Cricket, Illangaratnam Cricket - I think he was in the Sri Lanka Cricket Pool too, as a fast bowler.
The encouragement given to us by our General Managers Mr.Sydney Sirimanne Mrs. Nanayakkara, Mrs.Mano Alles, Mr. Kathiravelupillai,Mr. Bernard Fernando, Mr. Premraj, Cha Cha Deen, Mr. Asoka Perera, Mr. Upali Samarasinghe, Mr. Chandra Dias, Mr. Kumar Kanagarajah, etc. was tremendous.
I Captained the BOC Athletics team to India for an Athletics Meet against Vijaya Bank of India and remember securing 2nd place in the 10,000 meters race.
I also captained the Nationalized Services Hockey Team and Basketball team and represented them in Athletics.
During my tenure in the Army, I Captained the Soccer team of my Battalion and the Athletics team and also had the privilege of coaching the Army Basketball team and playing against officers in the caliber of Gen Daluwatte' Gen.Thurairaja and Brig.Nimal Jayasuriya etc. at the Basket Ball Nationals.
I represented Sri Lanka at the Asia Pacific Masters Games held in Australia in 1998 and World Masters Games held in Melbourne in 2000.
I captained the Sri Lanka Masters Games team in 2002 held in the Gold Coast Australia and led the team to win a Bronze Medal having won against Guam, who had a number of American expatriates playing for them. This was the first time a Medal was won by a Sri Lanka Basketball team in an International Event.
At one time I was the Hon. Secretary of the Sri Lanka Basketball Federation and the Sri Lanka Badminton Association. I went as the Manager of the Sri Lanka Badminton team for the World Championship held in Seville, Spain in 2003.
Even after my retirement from the BOC, I continued playing Badminton and Squash and was sometimes elated beating good players half my age!
At S.Thomas Guru and Mount all good sportsmen respected each other whatever game they played. Even after 50 years of leaving school it is a pleasure to keep in close touch with some of them. The names that come to my mind are- Luksman Watawala,Jayampathi Bandaranayake,Anura Tennekoon,Bandula Tennekoon,Azam Hameed,Peter Senaratne,Lt. Col, Sunil Peiris,Lt.Col. Sarath Jayawardena,Prabodha Kariyawasam,Stevie Overlunde, Dennis Chanmugam.Zacky Dasterkeer,Mahendra Liyanage,K.L.D.Perera,Suraj Jarawickrama,Anura Gunasekera,Philip Jayawardena.Vajira Tennekoon.Malin Hapugoda,Usama Suby,Senaka Ratnayake.Prabhu Pillai, Harish Nilaweera,Sanjiva Wijesinghe,D.R.Weerasinghe,Rajpal Samarasinghe,J.K.Perera, Gen. Kottegoda Ajith Jayasekera,Sarawanamuttu brothers. Similarly there are so many others like -father Chickera, Royden De Silva.Hilary White, Hiran Fernando, Malsiri Perera, Brian and Darrel Liverze, Prassanna Kannangara,Vijaya Lekamge.U.C.Jayasinghe, Harin Malwatte,Vernon Davidson,Mahendra De Silva etc. from other schools.

Last edited by sriyanj; 31-05-21 at 12:37 AM.
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Old 31-05-21, 12:24 AM
sriyanj sriyanj is online now
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My heroes in sports
Cricket Sir Garfield Sobers
Basketball Michael Jordan/ Kobe Bryant
Football Pele
Tennis Rafael Nadal
Swimming Michael Phelps
Rugby Dan Carter.

My advice to all is - HEALTH IS WEALTH - We live in this world only for a limited period of time and during that time it is important to live in peace, healthy and happy, you can achieve this only by choosing games/exercises to suit your age coupled with a healthy diet. Age is only a number - do not ever think you are too old to exercise or play games. I have now, with age catching up - given up strenuous exercises but continue to do yoga and swimming.
All in all, I had a very enjoyable and satisfying career in sports but more satisfying was making lifelong friends through sports, who still keep in touch. I wish to ask my friends the following question;

I wish to conclude by reproducing two quotes from two great sports personalities
"The only person who can stop you from reaching your goals is you."
Jackie Joyner-Kersee

"Don't be afraid of failure. This is the way to succeed."
LeBron James

Lt.Col. KaruAmarasinghe(KSV)
Chief Manager BOC-Retired
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