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Sri Lanka’s first contingent to an Olympics

The modern Olympic Games had finished 13 of its editions before Sri Lanka first sent a team for the London games. As noted in these pages earlier, a Sri Lankan had taken part in an Olympics before 1948 but he represented England.

Sri Lanka sent its first team to an Olympics in 1948 and made an impact when Duncan White won the country’s first medal.

Sri Lanka contingent was captained by Duncan White. The contingent included three athletes and four boxers.

Along with Duncan White, J. H. de Saram and G. D. Peiris represented Sri Lanka in field events. The boxers included A. I. Obeysekara, Albert Perera, Eddie Gray and L. P. Handunge, who’s first Olympic experience later helped him lead Sri Lanka’s team to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

The Games were held from July 29 to August 14 in London. Sri Lanka captain Duncan White created history wining country’s first medal, a silver in the hurdles, bettering the then world record.

According to contemporaries of Duncan White, most of the Sri Lankan contingent had not received expert training which many international athletes had before the world’s greatest sporting event.

Duncan White had for only two months before the event while the event’s Gold medalist had prepared for it for four years. It is said that Duncan White didn’t even have hurdles to practice, before the London Games.

However, the inimitable Duncan White’s single medal placed Sri Lanka 28th in the medals tally. Along with Sri Lanka, Cuba, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago who had won a silver medal each shared 28th place. A total of 4099 athletes from 59 countries participated in the London Olympics, which was boycotted by Japan and Germany in the aftermath of World War II. Apart from India (1 Gold), Sri Lanka were the only other South Asian country to have won a medal at the London Games.

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