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.