|The unforgettable Gamini Nanayakara
and Pix by Ravi Nagahawatte
In the sport he happens to be the first Sri Lankan to have won a gold medal at an international event. To the Sri Lanka Judo Association (SLJA) he has been its live wire by functioning as the president of the association..
He was selfless when offering his valuable time to promote the sport and to keep the association active.
But there is bad news for all judokas. Gamini has made an announcement that he is not going to contest at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the SLJA.
"It is time for someone else to take over the functions of the association. I was the president of the SLJA for four years. It is the duty of the next president to act responsibly and protect the assets of the association and promote the sport," said the outgoing president of the SLJA.
The man mountain, is still said to be still able to give the present day judokas the jitters if he decides to get back to competition.
If his stint as the president of the SLJF is considered brilliant his career as a judoka can be looked upon as even more brilliant.
For what elevates him to star status is the gold medal he won for Sri Lanka at the Pestasukan Championship in Singapore.
But the path to stardom for this heavy weight was one big struggle.
To begin with his parents never liked Gamini dabbling in the sport fearing that their son might suffer injuries.
The roots of enthusiasm to take to the sport shot up in him when he once visited the YMCA and got his first glimpse of the sport.
And judos prime principle of using an opponents strength against him fired him on to take to competitions, even though he had to start off late in the sport.
Gamini tasted victory in the Novices championship after five years of intense training.
But it was not until his participation at the Intermediate Championship that he learned one of the most valuable lessons in judo. He fought one his training partners, whom he didnt think much about, and was beaten after being choked. Gamini was taken to the hospital.He returned home wiser through this learning experience. He never underestimated his opponents there after.
Gamini went on to conquer the judo scene at home and in the process became the first ever winner of the inaugural open event at the nationals.
He became the first and only judoka to represent the country at the Asian Championship where he secured fifth place.
With age catching up with him Gamini decided to call it a day in the sport.
Later, as he took up administration of the sport, he received the opportunity to head the association with the sudden demise of the late Upali Sahabandu.
Gamini showed the same enthusiasm while being a judoka at his new role as the president of the SLJF.
He along with his committee built a home for judokas in the form of a head quarters at Reid Avenue. But an effort which could be termed out of the ordinary was witnessed a few years later when committee of the SLJF built a dojo (Training hall) at Kotahena.
Gamini was backed in this project by a committee members who shared same enthusiasm as he.
It took little or no time for the new dojo to come up on a land presented to the association during the period in which Sports Ministers Lakshman Kiriella and S.B.Dissanayake held office.
However Gamini had reservations when celebrating the opening of this complex as he couldnt see it complete.
According to the big boss of the association another five million rupees is needed to complete the dojo.
Presidents come and go with each AGM. But Gaminis name will be one that will stay for ever in this sport as long as it exists.
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