A lad from a far flung village brought fame to
Sri Lanka on Friday, snatching as he did the country’s first
ever weightlifting gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
Chinthana is his name—Chinthana Vidanage, to be exact. He became
Sri Lanka’s fourth Commonwealth gold medalist. Interestingly,
his victory coincided with the tenth anniversary of Arjuna and
his boys winning the cricket World Cup in a dramatic encounter
with the Aussies at Lahore.
That unassuming youth from Polonnaruwa was
nobody’s favourite, until his golden lift. Today we have many
trying to bask in reflected glory. A winner usually finds
himself or herself surrounded by friends he or she has never
Chinthana joins the club of outstation boys and
girls who have done Sri Lanka proud against tremendous odds.
Susanthika sprinted to fame and bagged an Olympic bronze, having
cleared many a hurdle on her way. Sanath blasted his way through
from the southern littoral with a bat in hand and a few clothes
in a bag. Some kalu suddas wondered whether he could play
cricket without speaking fluent English. But powered by rathu
haal, kos and bala maalu of the South, he
silenced his critics by making a red marble of leather over the
pavilion, match after match until the world recognized him as a
batting wonder and dubbed him Master Blaster. He sent the high
and mighty in the cricketing empire reeling and rolling on the
field and socked it between the eyes of his critics that what
was needed in cricket was not the ability to wag the tongue.
Sugath, Dharsha and many others who have vied with the best in
the world and secured many medals are also from the rural
backwaters with humble origins.
These talented young men and women wouldn’t have
made it even to Colombo let alone beyond Sri Lankan shores but
for their burning desire reinforced by an iron will. Instead of
resenting opportunities denied to them, they chased after them
and finally seized them. Anger and tears, they turned into
energy, which fuelled their fiery will and propelled them to
success. Their rise to fame is truly inspiring. Lives of these
heroes and heroines, beaten into shape on the anvil of suffering
and tempered with tears and sweat are worthy of emulation and
praise. They have shown the way for others to clear the
obstacles on their way stemming from a glaring urban bias in
governance and resource allocation in this country, which has
placed millions of children and youth at a distinct disadvantage
and driven most of them to political radicalism because of
discontent and unrest.
Incidentally yet interestingly, by a sheer
coincidence, yesterday we carried on the front page a news item
below the picture of Chinthana’s winning lift: ‘A remote school
beats ‘em all." A school in Embilipitiya—Panawala College—has
won the gold medal as the most productive school.
Chinthana, Sanath, Susanthika and others have
all proved that there lies a vast reservoir of talent outside
the Colombo and Kandy city limits, which needs to be tapped
fully. There must be many more like them in far away places
without an opportunity to blossom out. At a time when promising
athletes and players are hard to come by, the sports authorities
ought to broaden their search for talent by reaching out to the
rural sector in a bigger way. That is the way forward for Sri
Chinthana has a long way to go and deserves
assistance. His economic burden needs to be eased first of all.
However, it shouldn’t be done in such a way that he will be
tempted to rest on his laurels like Susanthika. She, it should
be recalled, didn’t go beyond her bronze. Let not the same
mistakes be repeated.
Congratulations Chinthana on your marvellous
lift and thank you for raising our hopes! And be on your mettle!