Sugath Thilakaratne, from Norton Bridge to Atlanta and Sydney

For any sportsman or sportswoman, the greatest achievement, he or she can attain or achieve in his/her life time is to represent his or her country at the Olympic Games. It is the world's greatest sporting event and the greatest show piece. Olympic Games sporting contests were originally held in Olympic, ancient Greece, every four years during a sacred truce; records were kept from 776BC. Women were forbidden to be present, and the male contestants were naked. The ancient games were abolished in 394 A.D. The present day games were held every four years since 1896.

Since 1924, there has been a separate winter games programme. From 1994, the Winter and Summer games were held two years apart.

Sri Lanka's Duncan White and Susanthika Jayasinghe, brought credit and honour to Sri Lanka, by winning Silver medals in in 1948 and 2000 respectively. In athletics these two achievements stands out in the sports history of Sri Lanka.

SUGATH THILAKARATNE, a village lad from Norton Bridge

This lad born on 30th July 1973 started his athletics career under trying conditions at Vidulipura Maha Vidyalaya and had the proud distinction of beating the renowned and famous 400 metres world record holder Michael Johnson of the United States of America, in a preliminary round at the the Olympic Games held in Atlanta, USA in 1996.

Michael Johnson, returned the time of 45.89 seconds, when the "Golden Boy" of Athletics of Sri Lanka Sugath Thilakaratne won the first round in the 400 metres, clocking 44.78 seconds beating. It was a great achievement indeed.

Thilakaratne had the proud distinction of representing Sri Lanka at two Olympic Games, 1996 in Atlanta, United States of America, and in 2000 in Sydney, Australia.

He was born to M. G. R. Lisinona and R. A. Appuhamy, residents of Norton Bridge, in the Nuwara Eiliya district. They have three sons and a daughter, namely R. A. Ariyachandra, R. M. Wickremaweera, R. A. Nihal Jayaratne, Sugath Thilakaratne and Suneetha Chandrakanthi.

Sugath Thilakaratne started his schooling at Vidilipura MV as a tiny tot in 1979. Nestling in the mountains in a cool and pleasant salubrious environment, the only popular sport at Vidilipura Maha Vidyalaya was athletics. Little Sugath Thilakaratne, took a liking to sprint events from his childhood. Fortunately, he came under the watchful eyes of dedicated and committed sports teachers namely, Jayalath Senake Premawansa and Padmawathi.

Sugath first took part in the sprint events, 50 metres, 75 metres, 100 metres and 200 metres. There was a fine athletic coach at Ambagamuwa Maha Vidyalaya - Anura Bandara. He spotted the talent of this youngster and advised him to specialize in the 400 metres. It all began after meeting Bandara who became Sugath's Trainer/Coach. Bandara was a result oriented Trainer and a Coach. In 1993, in the Nuwara Eliya District Meet, his pupil Sugath, came first in the 400 metres. Later, at the All-Island Schools athletics championship meet, Sugath Thilakaratne established a new record in the 400 metres in 48.50 seconds. After that, he never turned back.

The year 1993 was a golden year for the unassuming Sugath Thilakaratne. He was selected for the SAF Games trials. He created a new Sri Lanka record in the 400 metres, with a time of 47.17. From there onwards there was no stopping Thilakaratne. He took part in four (4) SAF Games, and collected six gold medals.

In 1993, the 4X400 Sri Lanka relay team created history by beating the Indian team. The winning 4X400 quartet comprised Damith De Silva, Mahinda Gunawardane, Suresh Dematapitiya and in the final lap - Sugath Thilakaratne.

Sugath Thilakaratne, holds the proud distinction of participating not only at two Olymic Games, but also representing Sri Lanka in four World Championship Games (1997 - Greece), (1999 - Spain) (Edmonton - 2001), (France - 2003).

At the 1998 Commonwealth Games, he won a bronze medal.

At the 1998 Asian Championship held in Japan, Sugath returned a time of 44.61 seconds in the 400 metres, a meet record still. This is one of his best achievements in his distinguished athletics career.

Sugath Thilakaratne is presently attached to Sri Lanka Telecom as an Assistant Manager Marketing.

It is heartning to note this experienced sprinter athlete Sugath Thilakaratne has been appointed a member of the National Sports Council, by C. B. Ratnayake - Minister Sports, in terms of (Section 492) of Law No. 25 of 1973, to advise the Sports Minister on matters pertaining to the development of sports. The N. S. C. consists of 15 members. The Sports Council is chaired by Dr. Maiya Gunasekera.

Sugath tied the nuptial knot with athlete Dulani Chaturika on 8th September 2003. They have two children, Thevini Dinara and Dehan Akanath.

Sugath Thilakaratne is a role model for our up and coming sportsmen. He had a dream, to bring honour and glory to mother Sri Lanka. He achieved it, in a big way. This unassuming village lad, sends a very strong message to the authorities that handle sports here. The message is that there are still so many hidden talents in rural areas. Susanthikas, Badras, Sriyani Kulawansas, Sugath Thilakaratnes and many more.

It reminds me of a verse in the poem of Thomas Grey - Elergy -

For many a gem of purest ray serene,

The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear,

Full many flower is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Sugath Thilakaratne is a pure ‘Gem’ from Norton Bridge. He is disciplined, levelheaded and intelligent.

The Sports Ministry must search for other "Gems" from the outstations, and never allow the beautiful fragrant flowers to blush unseen and waste their sweetness.

We must produce useful, productive and patriotic citizens who will be like the sweet smelling Sandlewood trunk when felled and crushed spreads forth its fragrance.

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