PSJASL members (from right) Karuppiah Ramakrishnan (president), Nuwan Karunarathne (member), Namal Pathirage (vice-president) and Chathuka Divashana (secretary) flank Wimalasena Perera (centre) on either side during a recent interaction.
By Vimukthi Adithya, Young Reporter, Sri Lanka
COLOMBO: Goodwill ambassador and international gymnast Anna-Marie Ondaatje and the Professional Sports Journalists Association of Sri Lanka (PSJASL) came out to help legendary marathon runner, Wimalasena Perera.
The PSJASL joined hands with ‘A Quint Foundation’ of the gymnast to fund Perera’s nutrition and rehabilitation needs for the next six month.
Anna-Marie, director of the foundation, said the focus is on human rights and creating changes in areas of health and safety, education, hunger, shelter, gender equality, foster, abuse, women, disaster response, refugee, sports development, arts, culture and heritage, rural transformation and urban renewal.”
This is the second time the PSJASL is associating with Anna-Maria, the first international gymnast to represent Sri Lanka, to support a noble cause.
In April, Anna and the sports journalists came together to donate 30 complete personal protective equipment (PPE) kits to front-line journalists and medical officers to help them cover corona related news safely.
Born on May 30, 1945, Perera was the fourth oldest living Olympian in Sri Lanka, the other being Sumith Liyanage, Ernest Fernando and Wimaladasa.
A product of the Sri Lankan army, Perera’s first international outing was the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica. He took part in the 1,500, 5,000 and the 10,000m events.
At the Singapore National Games in 1967, he won 2 silver medals in the 5,000 and 10,000m events. These performances and winning the trials helped him participate in the 1968 Mexico Olympics.
Mexico City is 2,250m above sea level. Perera experienced difficulties in breathing because of altitude. He reportedly had 36 injections to continue his run. Doctors’ advised him to pull out, but the gutsy runner continued as the 1960 and 1964 Olympic champions too abandoned the race.
He finished 51st out of 87 and was rushed to the hospital after the run in an unconscious state. He ended his career in 1972 due to an injury to left leg.
After retirement, Perera continued to be associated with the sport. For the past three years he has been chairing the athletic selection committee.
At 75, Perera fell sick often and had to undergo three bypass surgeries with the last one he underwent was in January 2019. His health has not been the best in the recent past and the doctors have recommended another surgery for better quality of life.
It is great to see a young sportswoman coming forward to help a senior athlete.
Deshabandu Lankaputhra Wimalasena Perera is the only Sri Lankan after Jullian Bolling to have been awarded the ‘Kreeda Rathna’.