Marathon Karu, National Coach and officials perish in LTTE attack

by Reemus Fernando

A host of athletic officials including the National Athletic Coach Lakshman de Alwis and Sri Lanka’s celebrated Marathon runner K. A. Karunaratne died in what could be termed as the first ever terrorist attack on a sports event in Sri Lanka when an LTTE suicide bomber blasted himself at the commencement of the ‘Siri Laka Dahas Gaw Marathon’ organized by the Weliweriya Adishta Sports Club at Weliveriya yesterday.

The blast occurred simultaneous to the flag off done by Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle the chief guest whom the Government Media Center Spoksman Luxman Hulugalle pointed out as the target of the LTTE.

Several journalists who attended the opening of the marathon bore witness to the brutal attack that took the lives of a number of prominent athletic figures of the country.

‘The blast occurred at the flag off and I saw people falling one over the other’ said Nishan S. Priyantha, ‘The Island’ photographer who was there to cover the event.

Sunil Abeyawardena, the veteran journalist who had witnessed the rise of ‘Marathon Karu’ as a budding athlete, was fatefully a witness to his brutal death yesterday.

"I saw Luxman de Alwis and Karu falling down. It was a horrible moment and a brutal incident that we have never experienced on a field of sport. I have seen these sportsmen bring glory to Sri Lanka, I have seen their great feats. Those glorious moments will always be in the minds of Sri Lankans and their endeavors to uplift athletics will not be hindered by this attack" said an emotional Abeyawardena.

Sri Lanka’s celebrated marathon runner Karunaratne who organized the event, National Athletic coach Lakshman de Alwis, R.A. Siripala, the Chief Technical officer of the Marathon, Colonel Udayadeera, the starter of the marathon were among the sports officials who died in the attack.

Lovingly called as ‘Marathon Karu’, Karunaratne competed in the 1992 Olympic marathon and in the 1993 World Championships. Karunaratne brought honour to Sri Lanka when he won the gold in the marathon and 10,000 meters at the 1991 South Asian Games. He also won back to back gold medals in the SAG marathon in 1993.

National athletic coach Lakshman de Alwis who served in the Athletic Field for over four decades holding various positions had trained numerous athletes who went on to become medal winners for Sri Lanka.

R.A. Siripala who was the chief technical officer of the yesterday’s marathon officiated at number of International athletic events.

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