Champion hurdler turns athletics official

by Dhammika Ratnaweera

P. H. D. Waidyatilleka is no stranger to athletics. Former champion hurdler is now an official. He is attached to the athletic technical field. "We do not have a proper second string athletics team. But we can’t blame any administrators. One president tried to start a programme to develop a second string. When new office bearers were elected they did not continuethe plan. Most countries have five to ten year plans to build up athletes. But we lack good plannin," said the Vice President of the Amateur Athletic Association, P. H. D. Waidyatilaka. He is a Chartered Civil Engineer by profession but associated with athletics.

The only Sri Lankan to be qualified as an International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) lecturer and an International Technical official, ‘Waidya’ is the Chairman of Technical Committee. It has already conducted several technical seminars and exams, both here and abroad. Challenged by a former Sports Minister in 1995, he conducted a technical exam and released the results within a month.

In 1997, Waidya introduced the Tamil medium for the echnical officials’ exam for the first time in Sri Lanka. He also introduced a new grading and promotion scheme for technical officials. The qualified technical officer he is, Waidya conducted seminars in various districts and also held islan-wide exams for Classes 2, 3 and 4. Waidya insists that the: "Technical side of the sport is important and we have to get proper knowledge on that score".

Waidyathilaka had an illustrious career at Richmond College, Galle and later at Nalanda College, Colombo before entering the Colombo University. He was a Public Schools’ Junior Hurdles Champion in 1958 while at Richmond. He later was the Public Schools’Senior Hurdles Champion in 1961. He was the Junior Nationals 110 hurdles Champion in the same year in 1961. He excelled at the Colombo University from 1962-1966 and was the champion athlete carrying away all trophies with top performances.

After he left the University as a Civil Engineer he was completely out of athletic s due professional work. Waidya was appointed a committee member of the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) in 1986. Minister Lalith Athulathmudali was the AAA president at the time.

In 1964 he became the Vice President and since the he has been serving as a Vice President of the AAA, except for oa year or two. In the 1991 SAF Games, Waidya was the head of all technical officials. He did a great job in the 1992 AAA Interim Committee as Secretary. "After a lapse of five years we conducted the Junior National Championships.We invited foreign athletes to take part in senior Nationals. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indian athletes came here".

He got the opportunity to follow the technical official’s course conducted by the IAAF in 1991 and was successful at the exam. Since then he has been involved with the technical aspects of athletics. He came first in Asia in the IAAF level lectures’ exam held in Jakartha in 1995. Once again he was first in Asia in the Technical Officials’ exam held in Singapore in 1997.

He once again was first in Asia at the International Technical Officers’ exam held in Singapore in 2001.

Waidya said: I had the good fortune to conduct the IAAF One course in Kathmandu in Nepal in 1999, followed by IAAF lecturers’ course in Jakartha in 2002. I am lucky to conduct the first-ever Technical Officials’ Course for International Masters officials in Bangkok last year."

Unforgettable experience

Waidya has international experience as a technical official since1991. Waidya said he will never forgot the 2003 World Championships in Paris. As a technical officer, Waidya disqualified the renowned athlete Jon Drummond of the USA in the100m. Waidya said: "Drummond refused to leave the track and delayed the event by nearly an hour. But I stood my ground and didn’t give in. Later Waidya was highly commended by the IAAF officials and made headlines in media. Other officials chipped in to say: "The Asian had guts to disqualify the American".

In 1986 Sri Lanka formed the Veterans’ Athletic Association. Since then Waidya has been doing his best to develop the Masters’ athletics.

This time Waidya was elected President ( uncopntested) of the Masters’ Association for the third consecutive year. Waidya says: "We won 75 medals in the last year Asian Masters’ Athletic meet in Bangkok. This was a big achievement at any level. We are well organised. Soon we expect to conduct the Asian Masters’ Athletic Championships in Sri Lanka for the first time. But we have a difficult task preparing for the SAF games in Sri Lanka next April. We conducted a successful SAF Games in 1991 and the Asian Athletic Championships in 2002".

Waidya concluded: " We need to work as a team and co-ordinate our programme to meet with success. If personal ambitions come in the way, all will be lost."



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