By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando
One of my old school mates, long years ago, at Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa, Dilvin Mendis, in his retirement has become a sports correspondent for an English national newspaper. He recently discussed with me the achievements of Sri Lankan sportsmen and women who have represented and performed in the international sports arena and quoted Placidus Schroeter’s name, particularly in cycling, as the first record holder who represented Sri Lanka in 1962 Asian Games.
Colombo to London
Although a man, who cycled from Colombo to UK all the way by bicycle long time ago, whose name is concealed in the public limelight, except highlighted in the Daily News some time ago by the writer, was Arthur A. Alvis. Arthur Alvis did not participate in an International Competition as such, however it was a record, which should have been included in the Guinness Book of Records.
In 1962 Asian Games Trevor Newman, Chandra Perera and Trevor de Silva too qualified but they were not sent to the Asian Games. Subsequently in 1966 Trevor de Silva did honours to Sri Lanka by winning two Bronze Medals at the Asian Games where Desmond Gunewardene managed to secure the 6th place. Among the Sri Lankan team in 1966 were Mike Hassan and Ivan Gamage.
According to Dilvin Mendis, Cyclist Trevor de Silva was a ‘ close runner up to Lucian Rosa at the Sports Star of the year in 1967. In 1989 Kamal Palitha secured the 7th place in the Asian Games.
It is regrettable, he states, that not a single cyclist represented at the Asian Games in 1994 in Hiroshima. During the subsequent years, however, a massive decline in cycling had taken place due to the fact Sri Lankan cyclists were not given the chance to compete in major competitions abroad!
At the Road Time Trial during the Commonwealth Games in 2010, Dane Nugera managed to come just behind the Bronze medal time , with his timing of 12minutes and 23 seconds.
Dilvin says, ‘taking Women into consideration with regard to Asian Games, Lasanthi Goonatilake ended up behind the Bronze Medal recorder, with her timing of 7 minutes and 30 seconds, whereas Lakshan Goonatilake too ended up, with his timing of 12 minutes and 20 seconds.
In 2014 at the Road Time Trial of the Commonwealth Games, B. Warnakulasuria was recorded behind the Bronze medal winner, with his timing of 12 min and 21 seconds, while S. Wickremasinghe, in Women’s category came behind Bronze Medal with a timing of 11m and 20 seconds; Regrettably not a single Sri Lankan cyclist, either a man or a woman, did finish the race!
With regard to Cycling, the first Sri Lankan to achieve International status was Maurice Coomaravel, who represented the country at the Rome Olympic Games in 1960. He had been the most successful cyclist at National level, who had won several races including many Tour de Lankas.
Dilvin continues with his statistics by stating that ‘in 1962 four Sri Lankan Cyclists qualified for Asian Games in Jakarta, but ‘due to unknown reasons only Placidus Schroeter took part which made Chandra Perera, Trevor de Silva and Trevor Newman, who were at the top form during that time, disappointed.’
It had been the effort of all four cyclists to qualify for the required standard, but when Dilvin Mendis had spoken to Trevor de Silva quite recently he (Trevor) had admitted how he had been ‘ a selfish rider’ and commented thus: “ If we were to qualify for another game, I would have made sure that I won the race while the qualifying time would become secondary”.
The year 1960 is still considered as the Golden era for Sri Lankan cycling, which was regarded, as a glamorous sport as cycling became the most admired sports in Sri Lanka. In 1967, De Silva finished as the runner up to Rosa, the marathon runner in the Sports Personality contest. Up to date no cyclist has ever come close to his record and timing ever since. Dilvin had spoken to Trevor de Silva quite recently, as he being the only Sri Lankan to have won a medal at the Asian Games on the SAG 2016. Silva’s comments were thus:
“There is a definite improvement in the men’s standard in cycling, but nothing significant in the women’s performances. I congratulate Jeevan Jayasinghe for winning Gold Medals in the 100km Road Race and 60m Criteruim. These were very commendable performances at the South Asian level. Even though there is a very wide gap between the SAG and AG levels, these margins could be reduced with active training. Jeevan is really talented, which must be developed according to his individual circumstances. The real comparison could be done with the Asian Games with individual timing. It is there I see the Time Real, and Sriyantha Wickremasinghe and Lasanthi Goonatilake are the riders with the most potential for a high place at the 2018 Asian Games”.
“ With just 23 months to the Asian Games in 2018 and with the performing level they are now in, it is very unlikely that a Sri Lankan Cyclist will win a medal! However, a team should be sent with a mixture of senior riders and highly talented young riders, who have the potential of winning a medal in 2022 in Hanagzhu, China.”
“According to the current programme, it takes too long to achieve this. I spent about three years on my mission before partaking in Asian Games. We had to coach ourselves, but I was lucky that I had cyclists in the calibre of Maurice Coomaravel and Trevor Newman to train with. Today there is no excuse for a Sri Lankan cyclist to win or get close to winning a medal within the next six years when there are so many good and qualified coaches amongst us. It is, therefore, necessary to direct equal effort to both men and women as by looking at the last four years’ performances, female is just as like a male to win”!
Dilvin says he spoke to Trevor de Silva recently and, finally he had agreed with the President, Hemasiri Fernando, and Secretary General Maxwell de Silva of the National Olympic Committee and Senaka Ranasinghe, the President of the Cycling Federation to act as a special advisers. According to Dilvin, Trevor de Silva is preparing a Strategic Plan that will take Sri Lankan cyclists through to the 2018 and 2022 Asian Games, because in his opinion, another 50 years is too long a wait!