Susanthika Jayasinghe: Is our ‘black beauty’ ready for the swan song?

Susanthika Jayasinghe and relatively little known Nadeeka Lakmali are the only remaining Sri Lankan competitors at Olympics 2008 at Beijing. They will take the field on Tuesday. We all wish the best for them – but let us admit – 2008 is no 2000. Eight years ago we all were sure Susie would bring a medal for us. This time not even the sports editors take her seriously. I checked four English weeklies today. Only Sunday Leader had a photograph of her – that too on the top of a brief two column piece.

This is what Channaka De Silva thinks. (In Sunday Times):

Boxer Anuruddha Ratnayake, Shuttler Thilini Jayasinghe, Shooter Edirisinghe Senanayake, Weightlifter Chinthana Vidanage, Swimmers Daniel Lee and Mayumi Raheem all were knocked out of the world’s biggest sporting spectacle without offering a fight and even without achieving a personal best barring Vidanage.

Thirty three year old sprinter Jayasinghe is out of form and off colour this season, but remains the only distant hope for the country as she is capable of pulling off a shock at the most unexpected moment as she proved in winning an Olympic medal and two world championship medals in the women’s 200 metres. Lakmali would take part in the javelin throw and was the only other athlete from Sri Lanka to qualify for the Games.Though the athletes are fast making their exits, officials are still pouring in to Beijing from Sri Lanka.

Susanthika Jayasinghe has already announced her retirement after the event. Intelligent decision. One should leave, they say, when others question why and why not.

Sad to see somebody like Susanthika ending her career in this manner. After all, she was the only one who ever brought a medal (even though, a bronze) for us from Olympics after the days of Duncan White. Whatever said and done – we should be grateful to her for that.

Having said that, I can only pity the loss to Sri Lanka. Having identified her talents and potential at young age, we could always support her to build her career. We could have supported her till she becomes the fastest female runner in the world. We didn’t do that. Instead we all made the life hell to her – poking fingers to her private life and giving her enough psychological issues. She was forced to keep her marriage as a secret for three years. She was exploited at the political platform in the dirtiest possible manner. She was cross questioned on national TV about her intimate affairs. In short, she was nothing but a pawn in a much bigger political game.

Not that I say she was completely innocent. She herself has to take part of the blame, no doubt. Still what level of wisdom could we expect from her? She was just an immature youth – that too coming from a rural environment. My frank opinion is the others – kings, queens and bishops – involved in the game should have been more responsible. The bottom line is we lost one great opportunity to make the Sri Lankan mark on the world sports map.

This is cut and paste from Wikipedia for her spots fans:

Susanthika Jayasinghe (born December 17, 1975 in Atnawala, Sri Lanka) is a sprint athlete specializing in the 100 and 200 metres.

Brought up in a poor family in a small village 60 kilometres north of Colombo, where running spikes cost more than the average month’s wage, Susanthika had no access to proper sports equipment or coaches. Yet in spite of these underprivileged conditions she managed to progress to a standard where she could claim medals at both the Summer Olympics and IAAF World Championships in Athletics.

After her performance in 1997 at the IAAF World Championships she travelled to the United States of America to train.

Along with Dhamyanthi Dharsha and Sugath Tillakaratne her athletics performances have lifted Sri Lanka to the international competitive level. In 2000 she became the nation’s first Olympic Games medalist since 1948, when she finished behind Marion Jones and Pauline Davis-Thompson in the Women’s 200 meters. On October 5, 2007 Marion Jones admitted to having been taking performance enhancing drugs prior to the 2000 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has stripped Jones of her medals. However, the redistribution of the medals will be decided in a forthcoming meeting.

However, Susanthika has been embroiled in controversy most of her career. She was suspended from competition in April 1998 for failing a drug test that she claimed was rigged due to her political beliefs and a falling out with a Sports Ministry official. She was later cleared of the offense. After returning home with her Olympic medal she was attacked by a male athlete because, she believed, she had been supporting former government members in an election campaign.

With no support from her national athletics association she had to go heavily into debt to even reach the 2000 Olympics but after her medal achievement there she was supported by a national fundraising drive in her homeland. In spite of that she left her home country to live in Los Angeles. She currently lives, however, in Sri Lanka.

She recently visited Los Angeles to train with Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam (Asian Games Gold Medalist in high jump – 1958; and two time Olympian in high jump – 1952 and 1956). Shortly thereafter, she won gold medals in the 100 m and 200 m at the Asian Athletics championships 2007 in Jordan a bronze medal for the 200 m race at the IAAF World Championships 2007. It was her first world championship medal in 10 years. She is currently ranked by the IAAF (as of 13th August 2007) 18th in the world for the 100 m sprint and 20th in the world for the 200 m sprint.

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19 thoughts on “Susanthika Jayasinghe: Is our ‘black beauty’ ready for the swan song?

  1. It’s sad to see tht the country is ready to write off Sussie even before she runs in the heats.. as far as Sri Lanka is concerned even qualifying for the final would be great!

    It’s something that no other country in our region and perhaps even in the whole of Asia has no possibility of accomplishing…

    Old she might be, but even a berth in the finals is cause enough for celebration.. true a medal seems a distant dream but would it not be an appropriate parting for Sri Lanka’s most talented female athlete…

  2. She truly did something for sri lanka i remember her getting the bronze medal in the 2000 she really did spark the whole country.I was so happy too and i was a little kid too.Any ways wish I susanthika all the best for 2008 games she is running soon i wish she gets a medal.It doesn’t matter if she does or don’t she will still remain a legend and will not ever be forgotten.

  3. Who is this “sports Ministry Official” who messed up the athlete’s life? You have a way dear in these affairs. Without mentioning him due to political reasons, you simply copy and paste from wikipedia. I am sure you will make a wonderful politician.

  4. She brought Silver to us now that Marian Jones got stripped of her medals. I wish Susanthika all the best! Its funny, 8 years on, and she’s still the best that we have. Similar to our cricketing heroes!

  5. Wish you all the best Susi..you can do it..may god bless you with all his blessings..you can do it..tc

  6. Sri Lanka does not care about anything other than Cricket. We have young people who are very capable of winning olympics but without a mentoring and sponsorship program it will not happen. Somehow Susanthika beat all those odds. If she believes she can do it, then she will do it no matter what people in SL says. When it comes to Olympics, not only your training, but your mental toughness matters a lot. So lets hope for the best and hope she can believe in herself a lot more than her country believes in her.

  7. In Sri Lankan history, we have not seen another person who had gone into this heights. If all of us had acted with responsibility, then we would have been able to secure the Gold for Sri Lanka during the olympics which followed. The ignorance of the authorities, and the coachs (including her coaching husband)had resulted in this disaster. I am sure that she should have decided to quit the game many years ago, if not for her courage to face the challenges of life.

    No matter what happens in 2008 Olympics, we should definitely write her name in “golden colour” in the books of “history of Sri Lanka” as one of the most courageous, toughest, and talented ladies ever born and lived in Sri Lanka.

    Good luck to our “Lady Courage” Susanthika Jayasinghe …in everything she do.

  8. Her achievements should bring pride to Sri Lanka; But I have followed her career for a while, and seen the nasty personal comments in the local press when she did not run in Athens. Sri Lankans are gracious to visitors but horrible to their own. This is typical of the jealousy and sniping that goes in Sri Lanka with anyone who has achieved anything. Sorry, but this is so. I wish her the best.

  9. When Susiie was running in the quarter finals heats where she became the 3rd I was watching TV with bunch of elite men and women in an elite public place. I thought everyone was happy about Sussies feats but on the contrary all these men and women were very angry to see that she was qualified for the next level. Their reasoning was that she is not decent and she is outspoken???? She shoudl have kept silence like Darsha to Son of Bitch’s (SB)advancements and concentrate on her sports. Maybe this is how those women and those men’s wives and daughters save their asses in competitions by offering their other sides.

    Sussie had all reasons to protest. What these idiots dont understand is that one cannot expect an athlete to be an academic. Maybe Susie or Ajantha Mendis, they are good at sports and they will take time to learn other disciplines. People like Mohommad Ali, Mike Tyson also had their own flip sides but they were good at their sports. Same applies to Sussie. Mendis also will learn to speak English like Jayasuriya and Murali did.

    Elite are not happy that a girl from a rustic background came this far, not someone from their own class. There was no such resistance to Julian Boling and Duncan White. (These people who gathered talked highly of White by running Sussie down very badly.) This explains it all. Sussie, you have already won. Even if you dont go for the next level, you are a heroine. After retiring, please try to arrange some help for the budding athletes from outstations. We will help you.

  10. Hey Susie,

    Your efforts wer good… but now you cannot beat the young Jamaicans.. You too look like Jamaican but they are more active.. Anyways, thanks for the efforts.. this is not your fault to become 7th in semi finals…because our country don’t care any other sports they only born to die with CRICKET..what non sense..all have to think of the future… other countries who dont play cricket counting their GOLDs, SILVERs, and BRONZs…we are still await!!!! Will play cricket for some more years!!!!!!! bull SHIT

  11. SHE FORGET THE PAST AND SPEND POOR PEPOLES MONEY
    MILLIONS ADDITIONAL SHE OBTAIN MONEY FROM PRESEDENT FUND ALSO

  12. Let me come in defence of Susanthika. (Not necessarily because she lives in my own electorate of Bandaragama and I know her personally.)

    Whether anybody likes it or not she is the only winner of an Olympic medal after 1940s. We have to respect for that. In fact, as I have mentioned earlier, she could have achieved more if not for the personal mishaps in her life, which were caused largely by outsiders.

    The state needs to invest money in developing local talents, whether in sports or not. Every government does that. That does not mean the athletes have to always win to do justice to that investment. It is like parents expecting their children to obtain best results at exams. We shouldn’t do that. Maximum we can expect from them is to try. If they cannot win, that’s is. It is a loss for us all. (I do not think anybody losses purposely)

    Susie has already done her best for the country. We all should respect that. Let us stop this debate at that point.

    There are also some who think we should force her retire. I do not think it is fair. (Have heard somewhere she has already announced her retirement, but not 100% sure) It is her choice. She has no qualifications in any other field. So she may have to continue her career. Let her decide that. Why should we bother?

    I wish all the best for my friend Susanthika’s future.

  13. I am a Sri Lankan born and bread who is living (for a short while ) In Australia.

    The people here are so pumped up about sports. Its easy to understand Susie”s frustration with all the red tape that she has to surpass just so that she can do what she loves most – to run.

    If any of us were met with half the resistance that she has (financially, socially, psycologically etc) we would have given up. The Australian athletes are ENCOURAGED and NURTURED so well. No wonder they are psycologically STRONG as opponents against the rest of the world.

    Jamaicans dont train in Jamaica – they train in the USA. To be the best, you have to be given the best environment to thrive in.

    Susie, you have done us proud.

  14. hi, am really happy with susanthika akki coz of she gave big place to world sri lanka is very small country before 2000 and now its know around the world, and i like to say i was training with susanthika akki, at the moment am in German Military and working as a Civil Engineer.

    thanks and best regards,

    Abilash kiriella

  15. Wish you all the best Susi..you can do it..may god bless you with all his blessings..you can do it..tc

    we love u & yuor family

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    Please pay your kind donation to her father’s grievance
    Rangana nivasa
    99th mile post ; Gangiyaya
    Embilipitiya; Sri Lanka
    Rev. Sir /Hon. Ladies and Gentlemen’s,
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    This surgery has been planned to be done by a team of doctors including Prof Dr. Alok
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    Branch :- Vellore Town Branch, code(1618
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    Patient ‘s Hospital Number :- 880030 C
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    With best wishes, H.P. Gnanathilaka.
    (Patient ‘s father) Sri Lanka

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